Biden stresses Hamas must release all hostages before Gaza ceasefire talks

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US President Joe Biden said on Monday that any discussions about a Gaza ceasefire could only take place if Hamas frees all hostages seized from Israel in its October 7 attack.

“We should have those hostages released and then we can talk,” Biden said at a White House event when asked if he would support a “hostages-for-ceasefire” deal.

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Biden then apologized for having to leave the event to promote his economic program ahead of next year’s election, saying he had to go to the White House Situation Room for “another issue I have to deal with.”

His comments came shortly after Hamas said they had freed two more women hostages abducted from Israel.

American mother and daughter Judith and Natalie Raanan were freed on Friday.

Israel on Monday increased the number of confirmed hostages to 222 people seized when Hamas gunmen crossed the border and attacked kibbutz communities, towns and military bases in southern Israel.

Israeli officials say the Hamas militants killed 1,400 people in the nation’s worst-ever attack.

Israel hit back with a blistering bombing campaign which Gaza’s Hamas-run health authority says has now killed more than 5,000 people.

Biden also touched on a call he had with Pope Francis on Sunday about the Israel-Hamas conflict and the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

“The pope and I are on the same page, he was very very, very interested in what we were doing,” Biden said.

Biden said he had “laid out to him what the game plan was” regarding US support for Israel.

“The pope was across the board supportive,” he added.

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