Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the media Sunday that the status of Americans taken hostage by Hamas is unknown, but "some" are believed to be alive in captivity.
The Biden administration's top diplomat was asked about 10 unaccounted Americans by Kristen Welker of NBC's Meet the Press.
"Kristen, we don’t know. As you said, we’ve got 10 unaccounted-for Americans. We believe that some significant number are hostages," he said.
Hamas has begun releasing some captives, starting with two Americans, Judith and Natalie Raanan, who were released on Friday.
Blinken thanked Qatar for facilitating their release - and emphasized that the remaining captives "need to be released, each and every one of them, now, unconditionally."
He acknowledged that it may be too late to rescue some of the captives.
"So what we don’t know for sure is whether some of the unaccounted-for are dead and have simply not been uncovered yet, or whether they’re hostage. But we have a pretty strong idea that some number of the 10, at least, are being held in Gaza by Hamas," he said.
President Biden has sought to distinguish between Palestinian civilians and Hamas, saying the terror group does not represent the Palestinian people.
At the same time, Biden and most Democrats have slammed calls for a cease-fire as a capitulation to Hamas and a slap in the face of Israel, which is still reeling from the most brutal attack on Jewish people since the Holocaust.
Blinken told NBC that the administration is not going to "second guess" Israel, but he refused to say whether the U.S. has pushed Israel to delay its ground invasion of Gaza in order to protect hostages there.
"We’re not in the business of second-guessing what they’re doing. We are talking to them on a regular basis about how they do it. It’s vitally important that every measure be taken to protect civilians, that humanitarian assistance gets in to people who are caught in this crossfire of Hamas’s making. "
Biden, who was criticized for spending the weekend at his vacation home in Delaware, reiterated Monday that a cease-fire will be up for discussion once all the hostages have been returned safely.
"We should have those hostages released, and then we can talk," he said.