Israel-Gaza updates: Biden speaks with Netanyahu about hostages' release, Gaza humanitarian assistance

The hostages are two elderly women who are both Israeli nationals.

Thousands of people have died and thousands more were injured after the militant group Hamas launched an unprecedented surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7 and Israel retaliated with a bombing campaign and total siege of the neighboring Gaza Strip, leaving the region on the verge of all-out war.

At least 1,400 people have died and 4,629 others have been injured in Israel, according to Israeli authorities. In Gaza, 5,087 people have died and 15,273 have been wounded, according to the Palestinian Health Authority.

Aid workers and officials fear that Israel's call for an evacuation of the northern part of Gaza is precipitating a humanitarian disaster as electricity and other supplies have been cut off in preparation for what appears to be an imminent ground offensive.

Humanitarian groups have urged Israel to call off the evacuation and agree to a cease-fire, even as the country has asserted a right to defend itself -- a right the United States endorses.

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Biden speaks with Netanyahu about hostages' release, humanitarian assistance for Gaza

President Joe Biden spoke with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday afternoon, once again addressing his commitment to efforts to “secure the release of all remaining hostages taken by Hamas – including Americans – and to provide for safe passage for U.S. citizens and other civilians in Gaza,” according to a White House readout of the call. Biden welcomed the news of the two hostages who were released earlier on Monday, per the readout.

During the call, Biden also “underscored the need to sustain a continuous flow of urgently needed humanitarian assistance into Gaza,” according to the readout.

Biden also spoke with Netanyahu about U.S. support for Israel and what the White House said was “ongoing efforts at regional deterrence, to include new U.S. military deployments.”

-ABC News’ Ben Gittleson


Kirby warns of uptick in Iran-linked attacks

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Monday that in recent days there had been "an uptick in rocket and drone attacks by Iranian-backed proxy groups against military bases housing U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria."

“We know Iran continues to support Hamas and Hezbollah, and we know Iran is closely monitoring these events and in some cases, actively facilitating attacks and spurring on others who may want to exploit for their own good, or for that of Iran," Kirby said.

Kirby said Iran tries to "maintain some level of deniability here, but we’re not going to allow them to do that."

He added that there is still no direct evidence that Iran was involved in Hamas' Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel.

-ABC News' Ben Gittleson


2 Israeli hostages released by Hamas, Israeli Hostage Center says

Two hostages have been released by Hamas, the Israeli Hostage Center confirmed.

The hostages are two elderly women who are both Israeli nationals, the center said. The released hostages are 85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz and 79-year-old Nurit Cooper, both from the Nir Oz kibbutz, the center said.

The Red Cross said it helped transport the hostages out of Gaza Monday evening. The hostages have since arrived back in Israel, the hostage center said.

The Israeli military said Monday that at least 222 hostages were taken by Hamas since Oct. 7. Two American hostages, a mother and daughter, were released on Friday.

The Family Forum of the Missing and Hostages said in a statement, "Over 200 Israeli citizens are being held in deplorable conditions and have been waiting to return home for 17 days. We call on the Israeli government and world leaders to bring everyone home now."



Biden: 'We should have those hostages released and then we can talk'

President Joe Biden was asked by a reporter Monday if the U.S. is supporting a deal for hostages in exchange for a cease-fire.

Biden replied, "We should get -- we should have a cease-fire -- not a cease-fire -- we should have those hostages released, and then we can talk."

-ABC News' Ben Gittleson


Rafah gate negotiations ongoing, no promise Americans can leave Gaza if it's opened: State Department

There are some signs of progress toward moving aid into Gaza, but negotiations to open the Rafah border crossing remain ongoing, State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said Thursday.

Miller also did not guarantee that moving aid to Gaza would necessarily mean Americans who want to leave could leave.

"If Rafah gate is open to allow humanitarian aid to go in, we will be trying to get out to the American citizens who are in Gaza who want to leave," he said.

Miller also noted there's a concern that Hamas would seize the humanitarian aid.

"There is not an Israeli military force in Gaza, there's not a U.N. peacekeeping force in Gaza. The people with guns inside Gaza are Hamas, and so Hamas may try to divert this assistance and keep it from getting to the civilians who it is intended for," Miller said. "We think that's a legitimate concern."

-ABC News' Shannon Crawford