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US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Douglas Emhoff on Friday met families of Americans thought to have been taken hostage during the October 7 Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel.
The meeting came as the Israeli military expanded its attack on the Gaza Strip with a massive aerial bombardment and ground incursion in the north of the enclave.
During the meeting, Ms Harris and Mr Emhoff listened to the families' experiences over the past several weeks, “which has of course been agonising”, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.
The US believes about 10 Americans are among the more than 200 people held hostage by Hamas and affiliated militants in Gaza.
Washington continues to push for the release of hostages held by Hamas, even as Israel broadens its attack on the Gaza Strip, Mr Kirby said.
“We are in active negotiations about that, even today. We are actively trying to bring that about,” he said.
“We will do what it takes, working with our partners.”
Several news reports earlier suggested Qatar-mediated negotiations were under way for Hamas to release hostages in return for a cessation of the Israeli bombardment. But any such discussions appear to have been overtaken by events on the ground as the Israeli military announced its broadened offensive.
Ilhan Omar, a Democratic congresswoman, said she had met the family members of American hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.
“We must do everything in our power to negotiate the safe release of all hostages held in Gaza,” said a post on her account on X, formerly Twitter.
“She will remain in touch with regional partners and NGOs to push for the release of the hostages, an end to the unjust targeting of civilians, and an immediate ceasefire.”