Ernst to Biden: ‘Work with Qatar to ensure remaining hostages in Gaza are freed’

Sen. Joni Ernst

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) made a bipartisan request that President Joe Biden further leverage the U.S. partnership with Qatar to secure the immediate release of the remaining hostages still held in Gaza by Hamas, including eight Americans.

“We appreciate Qatar’s efforts so far to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas and their commitment to continue coordinating efforts to release all remaining hostages,” wrote Sen. Ernst and U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) in a Dec. 21, 2023, letter sent to Biden. “However, we are concerned that Qatar is not fully utilizing its leverage to seek further concessions from Hamas.”

The hostages have been in captivity since Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023. U.S. advocacy facilitated a pause in fighting last month that resulted in the release of more than 100 Israeli and foreign hostages held by Hamas, but the terrorist group broke that temporary pause on Dec. 1, 2023, leaving the majority of the American hostages behind in Gaza.

Since then, wrote the senators, Hamas has refused to provide proof of life or visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross to deliver urgently needed medical care to any of the hostages.

Sen. Ernst and her colleague asked that Biden make clear to Qatar that the United States is closely watching ongoing hostage negotiations and to convey that Qatar’s inability to deliver on its commitments regarding the safe return of all remaining hostages will significantly impact bilateral relations.

“Time is of the essence to free the hostages and every diplomatic option must be on the table to secure their release,” they wrote. “Hamas alone is responsible for the health and safety of those it is holding captive. Given Qatar’s unique ability to influence Hamas, it is imperative that Doha understands our expectation that negotiations result in the release of all remaining hostages.”