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Biden mourns dual US-Israeli citizen confirmed killed on Oct. 7

President Biden mourned the death of dual U.S.-Israeli citizen Itay Chen in a statement Tuesday, after Israeli officials confirmed he died during the Oct. 7 massacre in Israel.

“Today, our hearts are heavy. Jill and I are devastated to learn that American Itay Chen was killed by Hamas during its brutal terrorist assault on October 7,” Biden said in a statement about Chen, who was thought to be among the six living U.S. hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed the death Tuesday and said Chen’s body had been brought back to Gaza, where Hamas is still holding about 130 hostages, including Chen and 31 others that Israeli officials determined had died.

Chen, who was 19 years old when he was killed, was raised in New York City and was serving as an Israel Defense Forces soldier in Israel. His parents had become vocal advocates lobbying for the return of the hostages in the months since Hamas’s surprise strike last October, which saw 1,200 Israelis killed and more than 250 people kidnapped.

Biden recalled his meeting in December with the families of hostages, including Chen’s father and brother, “to share the agony and uncertainty they’ve faced as they prayed for the safe return of their loved one.”

“No one should have to endure even one day of what they have gone through,” he said.

The family members, the president said, at the end of the meeting, “gave me a menorah — a solemn reminder that light will always dispel the darkness, and evil will not win.”

He also reaffirmed his commitment to bring home the hostages still being kept in Gaza.

“Today, as we join Itay’s parents, brothers, and family in grieving this tragic loss, we keep this reminder close to our hearts. And I reaffirm my pledge to all the families of those still held hostage: we are with you,” Biden wrote. “We will never stop working to bring your loved ones home.”

Chen’s family issued a statement following the news, as well, pledging to continue fighting to return Itay’s body home from Gaza. They said they would not begin the traditional Jewish mourning ritual of sitting shiva until after his body is returned.

“Our family has decided that our journey is not over,” Rubi Chen, Itay’s father, said to reporters, while holding an hourglass to depict time running out, according to The Times of Israel. “We decided that we are not sitting shiva until Itay is returned home. We will continue our battle, with all the other [hostage] families, to bring a deal now.”

“There is an opportunity, there is a window, to bring a deal to decrease the suffering of our family, and all the other 133 families,” the father continued, according to The Times of Israel. “There is an opportunity, and I call on the prime minister and the government to do everything in their power to reach a deal to bring us and the other families the most basic thing we deserve — our loved ones at home.”

The remaining U.S. hostages thought to still be alive are Edan Alexander, Sagui Dekel-Chen, Omer Neutra, Hersh Goldberg-Polin and Keith Siegel.

Two U.S. hostages were released during last year’s temporary cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, and two others were killed.

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