Biden Vows Focus on U.S. Hostages as He Condemns Hamas Attack in Israel

President Biden held out hope on Wednesday that he could still bring home U.S. hostages held by Hamas even as he gathered together with a group of American Jewish leaders at the White House to mourn what he called “the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust.”

The Biden administration said that at least 22 American citizens were among the dead and that 17 more remained missing, some of them evidently seized by Hamas. John F. Kirby, a White House spokesman, said it was not clear precisely how many were hostages but estimated that the number was “very small, very small, less than a handful.”

The fate of the Americans held by Hamas has been a central preoccupation of U.S. officials since the surprise attack on Saturday, reinforcing that the crisis in Israel is an American crisis as well. While the White House has not ruled out U.S. action to rescue captives if an opportunity presented itself, it has largely deferred to Israel in public, saying that it has sent hostage specialists to help with any efforts to save the hostages.

“We want to make it real clear. We’re working on every aspect of the hostage crisis in Israel, including deploying experts to advise and assist with recovery efforts,” Mr. Biden told the American Jewish leaders at the White House. He added: “There’s a lot we’re doing, a lot we’re doing. I have not given up hope of bringing these folks home.”

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