Vice President Kamala Harris meets with families of hostages held by Hamas

Washington — Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday met with families of the hostages believed to be held by Hamas, updating the families after CIA Director William Burns participated in hostage talks in Cairo over the weekend. 

Five Americans remain unaccounted for and are believed to have been taken hostage by Hamas during the attacks, after Israel announced last month that Itay Chen, a 19-year-old Israeli soldier with dual Israeli-U.S. nationality, was confirmed dead. National security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that while Burns was in Cairo, there was a “marathon” session late into the night with the U.S., Israel, Qatar and Egypt, with Qatar and Egypt communicating with Hamas. 

Sullivan said that although public statements by Hamas have been “less than encouraging,” the parties are waiting to secure an answer from Hamas about a hostage proposal. 

The administration has made it clear that it will continue to work for the release of all hostages and an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas six months after the militant group’s attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7. 

Speaking to reporters after the meeting with Harris, Jonathan Dekel-Chen, father of hostage Sagui Dekel-Chen, said he came to encourage all sides to make a deal. 

“There is a deal on the table that all of the parties agree to,” Dekel-Chen said, noting they are still waiting for Hamas to respond. 

Rachel Goldberg-Polin, whose 23-year-old son, Hersh Goldberg-Polin, is being held by Hamas, called the meeting with Harris “productive” and said the family members “want results.” 

Goldberg-Polin said Sunday on “Face the Nation” that it’s a “failure” of global leaders and governments involved in hostage negotiations that her son and more than 130 others have been held in captivity for six months. 

The White House says Harris “underscored that President Biden and she have no higher priority than reuniting the hostages with their loved ones” and “reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to bring home the remains of those who have been tragically confirmed to be deceased.” She also updated them on U.S. efforts to secure the release of all hostages and an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. 

The vice president also met with the families in late October. The families of the hostages met with Sullivan on Monday. 

US Vice President Kamala Harris arrives at Charlotte Douglas International Airport on April 4, 2024, in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

ALLISON JOYCE/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli officials said that around 240 people were believed to have been taken hostage amid the Hamas terrorist attack on Oct. 7. Six months later, less than half of those captured have been returned. Parties gathered in Cairo over the weekend to restart negotiations to release the remaining hostages being held by Hamas.

U.S. and Qatari-led hostage diplomacy began in October, when two dual U.S.-Israeli hostages — a Chicago teenager and her mother — were released. Then, during a weeklong pause in fighting in November, more than 100 hostages were released, including two U.S. citizens, one of whom was only four years old. And in late December, the final American woman believed to be among the hostages, Judi Weinstein Haggai, was confirmed by Israel to have died. 

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