“We don’t know when that will occur, but we expect it to occur. And we don’t know what the list of all the hostages are or when they’ll be released, but we know the numbers when they’re going to be released. So my hope and expectation is that it will be soon,” Biden said, responding to a question from a reporter about when Americans will be released.
Under the agreement announced earlier this week, Hamas is expected to release a total of 50 hostages for 150 Palestinian prisoners, all women and teenagers. The deal, which emerged from talks involving Israel, Hamas, Qatar, the U.S. and several outside groups, could be seen as a rare bright spot amid several weeks of death and devastation. More than two hundred trucks also arrived in Gaza on Friday, carrying fuel, food, medicine and cooking gas, Biden said, and hundreds more are expected to arrive in the coming days.
“I don’t trust Hamas to do anything right,” Biden said of the ongoing negotiations. “I only trust Hamas to respond to pressure.”
While several administration officials say the deal is evidence that their strategy toward the Israel-Hamas war is working, the president didn’t take a victory lap on Friday, as roughly 200 hostages will remain in captivity.
The hostages suffered immeasurable trauma, Biden said.
“All of these hostages have been through a terrible ordeal. And this is the beginning of a long journey of healing for them,” Biden said. “The teddy bears waiting to greet those children at the hospital are a stark reminder of the trauma these children have been through at such a very young age.”
Hamas killed 1,200 people Oct. 7, and Israel’s response has killed more than 13,000 people.
The political challenge facing the president is far from fading as progressive-minded Democrats ramp up calls for a cease-fire. Biden said Friday that he’s encouraged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “focus on trying to reduce the number of casualties,” while trying to eliminate Hamas, which he called a legitimate objective.
Biden also faces an uphill climb in securing aid for Israel, as some members of his party call for conditions attached to aid for Israel, such as a reduction in bombing.
“I think that’s a worthwhile thought,” Biden said. “But I don’t think if I started off with that that we would’ve ever gotten to where we got today. We have to take this a piece at a time.”