Hamas Likely Holding American Hostages As Leverage Against Biden Admin, Experts Warn

(Photo by MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images)

Daily Caller News Foundation logo
Jake Smith Contributor
Font Size:
  • Hamas is releasing dozens of hostages, including Israelis, foreign nationals and a small number of Americans, in exchange for continued pauses in conflict with Israel.
  • Hamas is likely holding on to the American hostages for as long as possible to pressure the Biden administration to continue calling for pauses, as bringing Americans home has been made a top priority, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
  • “Hamas is getting guidance from the Iranian regime on its hostage strategy. They both understand that American hostages are particularly valuable,” Gabriel Noronha, former special advisor for the State Department, told the DCNF.

Hamas could be retaining American hostages to pressure the Biden administration to keep pushing for pauses in Israel’s counteroffensive in the Gaza Strip, according to foreign policy experts and former government officials who spoke to the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Hamas is releasing dozens of hostages, including Israelis, foreign nationals and a small number of Americans, in exchange for temporary pauses in the conflict with Israel as part of a truce deal that was agreed to last Tuesday and extended on Thursday, according to the Associated Press. It is likely Hamas could be retaining as many American hostages as possible so that the Biden administration will push for more pauses in the conflict, in the hopes of their eventual release, experts told the DCNF. (RELATED: ‘We Don’t Know’: Biden Has No Update On Freeing Of American Hostages While Touting Release Deal)

“Hamas clearly sees a strategic utility in delaying Israeli punishment for as long as possible,” Behnam Ben Taleblu, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the DCNF. “To that end, they are using hostages, particularly foreign and American hostages, as human shields to push for additional pauses in the conflict amid lopsided hostage deals.”

“Hamas is likely retaining as many American hostages as possible for leverage, in order to extend and expand the ceasefire,” Simone Ledeen, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy and Strauss Center senior fellow, told the DCNF. “We can assume that the American hostages are being held in the same bleak conditions as have been described by the released hostages.”

Over 100 hostages, including four Americans, have been released by Hamas since Oct. 7, according to The Washington Post. Hamas still retains approximately 143 hostages, including seven Americans – although that number has not been independently verified outside of Israeli intelligence, according to the Washington Post and USA Today.

Two Americans, a mother and her daughter, were released by Hamas on Oct. 20, separate from the current truce deal. Another American, a four-year-old whose parents were reportedly killed during the Oct. 7 attacks, was freed on Sunday, and the latest release was an American woman on Wednesday, according to Axios.

The Biden administration has been vocal that freeing these Americans is a top priority, though President Joe Biden said on Friday that “we don’t know” the timeline for their release. The administration has been vocally supportive of the ongoing pauses in the conflict between Israel and Hamas to secure more hostage releases, as well as to deliver humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, according to The Wall Street Journal.

CIA Director William Burns traveled to Doha on Tuesday for a secret meeting with an Israeli intelligence official and Qatar’s prime minister to discuss continuing pauses for the release of more hostages, according to the Post. Burns stressed to the officials that it was of prime concern that Americans be released swiftly.

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East and retired CIA Paramilitary Operations Officer Michael Mulroy told the DCNF that Burn’s trip underscored the Biden administration’s desire to bring Americans home at the cost of extended pauses in the conflict, noting that he thought Hamas might be taking advantage of this position. (RELATED: ‘I Cannot Prove What I’m About To Say’: Biden Says His Own Diplomacy May Have Triggered Hamas Attack)

“Yes, it is possible that Hamas will keep American hostages until the end to leverage the US to pressure the Israeli government to extend the truce,” Mulroy told the DCNF. “I believe this is a real concern of the White House and likely one of the reasons the Director of CIA [was in Doha] and Secretary Blinken is going back to the region soon.”

“Could it be because they want the U.S. to push for more ‘pauses’ in the conflict, so that it can bring home more hostages?” Mulroy said. “Absolutely. That is the concern.”

National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby said during a press gaggle on Tuesday that he thought there was “no indication” that Hamas is retaining American hostages as leverage. But Iran, Hamas’ patron, has used American hostages as leverage against the Biden administration before, most recently to acquire $6 billion in previously frozen assets in exchange for five Americans, former Special Advisor for the State Department Gabriel Noronha told the DCNF.

“Hamas is getting guidance from the Iranian regime on its hostage strategy. They both understand that American hostages are particularly valuable – especially after President Biden showed his willingness to pay $6 billion earlier this year in ransom payment,” Noronha told the DCNF. “Each additional American hostage they offer to release is also more leverage they can put on the Biden Administration to pressure Israel to accept these agreements (referring to the continuation of ceasefires).”

The truce between Israel and Hamas will expire on Friday, though it could be extended into next week, according to the WSJ. It is unclear whether American hostages will be among those released during that time frame.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

All content created by the Daily Caller News Foundation, an independent and nonpartisan newswire service, is available without charge to any legitimate news publisher that can provide a large audience. All republished articles must include our logo, our reporter’s byline and their DCNF affiliation. For any questions about our guidelines or partnering with us, please contact