Biden Says Hamas Hostage Deal ‘Very Close’
WASHINGTON — President Biden said Tuesday morning that an agreement to bring home hostages held by Hamas is “very close” though he declined to get into details “because nothing is done until it’s done.”
The president made his remarks ahead of a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on how to accelerate efforts to counter the flow of fentanyl into the United States.
“We could bring some of these hostages home very soon,” Biden said in answer to a question shouted by a reporter during the so-called “pool spray” at the top of the meeting.
A pool spray affords the press an opportunity to gather color and photographs ahead of a top level meeting.
“If we have more to say, we will,” Biden said, according to a pool report. “There will be plenty of time to talk about the hostages.”
In the meantime, multiple media reporters said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was meeting with his cabinet as of about 1 p.m. EST here, and his office told the BBC that the discussions were “in light of developments on the issue of the release of our hostages.”
Netanyahu is also scheduled to talk to his war cabinet and a council of ministers later today. Any hostage deal would require the approval of all three entities.
The leader of Hamas said earlier Tuesday that an agreement was close, Reuters reported.
Hamas kidnapped about 240 people from Israel on Oct. 7, during the attacks that killed at least 1,200 people.
Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, has since released four people as part of intensive negotiations through Egypt, Qatar, the U.S. and Israel.
Numerous reporters are also suggesting that the first 50 hostages that could be released under what is being framed as a hostages-for-ceasefire agreement would be Israeli or dual citizens.
As for the meeting at the White House today, Biden described it as a follow-up to last week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in San Francisco, California.
“Last week in San Francisco, we made important progress with both China and Mexico to strengthen our efforts to address this scourge,” the president said. “During my meeting with President Xi, we took a critical step of resuming counter narcotics cooperation between our two countries.”
Attendees at the meeting included, among others, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Attorney General Merrick Garland, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Anne Milgram, administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Rahul Gupta, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (who attended virtually), White House Counsel Edward Siskel, and Jake Sullivan, assistant to the president for National Security Affairs.