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U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), co-chair of the Abraham Accords Caucus, led a bipartisan, bicameral delegation to the Middle East in coordination with the families of American hostages held by Iran-backed Hamas to advocate for their immediate release to the senior leadership and lead negotiators in Egypt, Israel, Qatar, and Bahrain.

Ernst was joined by Senator Ted Budd (R-N.C.), Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Representative Debbie Wasserman- Schultz (D-Fl.), Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa), Representative Don Norcross (D-N.J.), Representative Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), and Representative Ann Wagner (R-Mo.).

“I am proud to lead the charge to bring Americans home by delivering a strong bipartisan, bicameral message to our partners in the Middle East and use the full Congressional leverage of this delegation to bring Americans home. Three months after Hamas’s brutal attacks on Israel, it is evident that more must be done to secure the release of all hostages, especially Americans, held by Iran-backed Hamas. Through productive meetings, we delivered our message face-to-face with senior leaders and lead hostage negotiators to reunite families. Every second counts,” said Senator Ernst.

“First and foremost, I’d like to thank Senator Joni Ernst for leading this critical congressional delegation to the Middle East. At a time of incredible instability, when evil and terror are taking advantage of a weak U.S. president, now is the time to reassure our allies and partners that they have a friend in the United States,” said Senator Budd.

“This trip was a reminder not only of America’s vital and enduring national interests in the Middle East, but the extent to which the Biden Administration has failed to sufficiently bolster our allies in the region or show proven resolve to our foes. Over these last decades, I’ve seen the face of war and the casualties of conflict in every corner of the globe. But none of that prepared me for what my House and Senate colleagues witnessed in a sleepy village in Israel filled with children and their toys where a massacre occurred on October 7th,” said Congressman Issa. “My thanks to Senator Ernst for leading our delegation and providing an opportunity for others to learn that the stakes at this time and in this place could not be higher.”

“Our return to the Middle East last week was laser focused on pushing for the release of hostages and standing strongly with Israel’s mission to eradicate Hamas. We met with Qatar’s Prime Minister to send a strong, bipartisan, bicameral message that its considerable leverage to secure the release of the hostages was critical and our expectation that they use it. We also urged the Egyptian President to remain fully engaged in hostage negotiations, and met once again with the Prime Minister, the Crown Prince of Bahrain, whose unequivocal condemnation of the Hamas attacks demonstrates hope for the future of the region as an Abraham Accord signatory,” said Wasserman Schultz. “Our meetings resulted in productive conversations that made clear to us that these regional leaders are committed to being a catalyst to securing the release of the Americans and Israelis still held by Hamas. Our delegation’s first trip to this region included time in Israel just three days after those barbaric assaults on Israeli civilians. This time we were able to see that savagery up close, in a visit to devastated Kibbutz Nir Oz. We also made clear in our meetings with family members of Americans still held hostage, with displaced survivors of the Hamas attack – many of whose family members are still being held in Gaza – as well as in our updates from Mossad and IDF officials, that our bipartisan, bicameral Congressional delegation came back to the region to press for the release of hostages. We left knowing that our message was well-received and that the hostage release mission remains paramount in the region.”

“As the Israel-Hamas war marks the third month since the horrific attacks on Israelis, American hostages remain detained by Hamas terrorists,” said Rep. Miller-Meeks. “It was important for me to join Senator Ernst on the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional Delegation to Israel, Qatar, Egypt, and Bahrain to not only advocate for the Americans held hostage by Hamas, but to hear from family members, released hostages and also to hear from leaders on the global stage about the escalation of crimes committed by Hamas against women and potential paths towards the immediate release of American and all hostages. Our high-level meetings with leaders in the region were productive and I will remain committed to ensuring the safe return of the hostages.”

“In October, our congressional delegation made historic steps toward progress and prosperity in the Middle East before the brutal attack on Israel by Hamas. Despite the current complex environment, it was important for us to build on the previous progress we made, and that’s exactly what we did. The relationship between the United States, Israel, and our partners throughout the Middle East is crucial to regional and global security,” Rep. Norcross said. “We also held productive talks with officials in Israel and across the region to secure the safe release of every single hostage still being held hostage by Hamas terrorists. It was important for myself and my colleagues to show our unwavering bipartisan, bicameral support for the hostages and the Israeli people as they continue to defend themselves after the brutal October 7th attack. I will continue to work to strengthen the ties between the Israeli and American people and government and ensure that Israel has the aid and assistance it needs to defend itself.”

“Just three days after October 7th, I was a part of the first Congressional delegation, led by Senator Ernst, to go into Israel to demonstrate our concern and condolences after such a bloodthirsty attack by Hamas. Now, just over three months later, it was imperative to return not only to Israel, but also to the region so that we can show our sustained support for our allies as well as put pressure on them to continue their tough negotiations for the release of the remaining hostages,” said Rep. Panetta. “Thanks to the stalwart leadership of Senator Ernst, our bipartisan, bicameral congressional delegation was able to meet with the leaders of Egypt, Israel, Qatar, and Bahrain and discuss the potential release of hostages, Israel’s right to defend itself while minimizing civilian casualties, the increase of humanitarian aid into Gaza, and the opportunities for a truce. We also met with former hostages, families of hostages currently being held in Gaza, and victims of the attack and experienced the horrific damage at Kibbutz Nir Oz. Although it was an emotional trip, it was a very impactful trip, as we must continue to work with our partners in the region towards a peaceful resolution.”

”The world watched the horrors that occurred in Israel on October 7th and we resolved that this evil has no place in our world. Hamas must be eradicated,” said Rep. Wagner. “As Vice Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Co-Chair of the Abraham Accords Caucus, I went to see the situation on the ground and speak directly to international partners who are working with us to bring American hostages home. Meeting with the families of hostages was especially heartbreaking. As we grieve the more than thirty Americans lost to Hamas terrorists, we insist on the immediate release of the remaining American hostages.  Our meetings with heads of state and government officials in Israel, Egypt, Qatar, and Bahrain will better inform our work to ensure greater stability and safety in the region and help bring home the hostages to their families.”

Details from their CODEL include:

In Egypt, Senator Ernst met with President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, and Intelligence Director Abbas Kamel to encourage Egypt to continue playing an important role in bringing Americans home.

In Israel, Senator Ernst met with representatives of all U.S. hostage families, returned to the Kibbutz Nir Oz to meet with victims and witness the devastating impact of Hamas’s atrocities, and reaffirmed bipartisan support for Israel while meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. In addition, the delegation met with Israeli officials involved in hostage negotiations.

In Qatar, Senator Ernst met with Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani. She called on Qatar, a key strategic partner, to exert more leverage on Hamas to return the six American hostages as soon as possible. She also visited Al Udeid Air Base to receive updates on Iranian proxy attacks on our servicemembers and met with Iowans serving our nation abroad to thank them for their service.

In Bahrain, Senator Ernst met with Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa and discussed the importance of continuing the United States’ and Bahrain’s close strategic relationship and efforts to secure the release of the hostages. She also visited U.S. 5th Fleet Headquarters to receive updates on Houthi attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea and met with Iowans serving our nation abroad to thank them for their service.

Author: Press Release


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