A week after Palestinian militant group Hamas stormed from Gaza into Israel and launched an unprecedented attack, President Joe Biden will address the diplomatic challenge of potential American hostages and more in a CBS News 60 Minutes interview airing Sunday evening.
Hamas breached Israel’s border on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,300 people. Militants gunned down families in their homes and young people at a music festival, bringing at least 126 hostages to Gaza, Israeli authorities have confirmed.
Fourteen Americans remain unaccounted for after the attack, with some believed to be taken as hostages, the White House said, posing a huge diplomatic challenge for Biden.
In a clip from the upcoming 60 Minutes interview, Biden told reporter Scott Pelley why he chose to speak to the families of the missing Americans directly, via Zoom. He shared that it was important to him because he wanted the families to know that he cares “deeply” about what is happening.
“We have to communicate to the world this is critical,” Biden said. “This is not even human behavior. It’s pure barbarism. And we’re going to do everything in our power to get them home if we can find them.”
When asked by Pelley what he would say to anyone holding American hostages in Gaza, Biden responded that his administration would do everything in its power to find them. Declining to go into further detail, he added: “We’re working like hell on it.”
The potential hostage situation presents a major challenge for Biden and his Israeli counterpart Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Hamas has historically leveraged hostages in lopsided exchanges. In 1985, Israel swapped 1,1500 Palestinian prisoners to free three captive Israeli soldiers.
Dozens of hostages have become pawns in the current Israel-Hamas war, which on Sunday became the deadliest of five conflicts in Gaza for Palestinians. Israel has cut off power, water, and fuel to the coastal enclave until hostages are released and has bombed the territory, killing more than 2,300 people, the Palestinian health ministry said.
Hamas, meanwhile, has threatened to execute a hostage every time Israel bombs a Palestinian home without warning, although one Hamas official walked back that threat, telling the BBC that hostages would be treated in a “human, dignified way.”
Biden and Israel have accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields. The Israeli military ordered more than one million people in north Gaza to evacuate south in an attempt to separate the populations as it prepares for a likely ground invasion to try and root out Hamas. Policy experts predict an invasion would result in brutal house-to-house fighting and high civilian casualties.