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American girl, 4, orphaned in Hamas attack before being kidnapped is reunited with family

Abigail Edan’s parents were killed in front of her before she was taken hostage on 7 October

John Bowden
Washington DC
Monday 27 November 2023 11:01 GMT
Biden thankful after four-year-old American hostage released by Hamas

President Joe Biden denounced the “unthinkable” actions of Hamas after a four-year-old girl with American citizenship whose parents were killed by terrorists last month was released from inside Gaza on Sunday as part of a hostage agreement.

That four-day truce is currently underway in the northern Gaza Strip where Israeli forces have been bombarding the city for weeks; Hamas militants, following a shockingly bloody attack that killed roughly 1,200 across southern Israel last month, continue to hold dozens of hostages within the Palestinian territory.

On Sunday, Israel confirmed that Abigail Edan, four, had been among hostages released by the militant group into the care of the Red Cross. Her immediate condition was unknown.

“Thank God she is home,” Mr Biden said of Abigail on Sunday, as he addressed Americans from Nantucket. “What she endured is unthinkable.”

He also expressed a hope that Israel and Hamas would extend a four-day ceasefire that is set to end tomorrow; Israel’s military has publicly vowed to resume the bombing once the arrangement concludes.

“This is a day by day approach,” the president told reporters. “Hour by hour, nothing is guaranteed.”

The release of 50 or more hostages out of the 240 taken by the militant group was expected to occur over the course of the fighting’s pause, which began on Friday. In exchange, Israel has agreed to release 150 Palestinians, including women and children, who were being held in Israeli prisons.

At his home in Nantucket on Sunday, Mr Biden confirmed that 58 hostages in total had been released by Hamas since the beginning of the truce. He added that the deal was structured to allow for an extension beyond the deadline, should another agreement for the release of more hostages be struck.

Just a short time earlier Sunday morning, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan had refused to go into much detail about the fates of as many as nine American citizens currently believed to be held by the militant group, including Abigail, on a series of morning show interviews. The president’s adviser had said that US officials did not even have proof of life in the case of those American hostages, and added that two American women were also thought to be among the first group of hostages Hamas militants would release during the truce.

Abigail Edan (AP)

“The initial hostage deal involves the release of women and children and there are three Americans in that category: two women and one young child. And we have reason to believe that one of those Americans will be released today. But until we see her out – safely from Gaza, in the hands of the authorities and ultimately in the hands of her family – then we won't be certain. But we have reason to believe that there will be one release today,” said Mr Sullivan on NBC’s Meet the Press. He also appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation.

But he cautioned that nothing was certain, especially given the lack of direct communications between the Biden administration and Hamas’s leadership.

“We have not gotten proof of life on any of them, and we do not know for certain that all three of them are still alive,” he told NBC on Sunday.

The status of the bulk of the hostages taken by Hamas had been unclear for weeks as Israel’s military launched a brutal air and ground invasion of the northern Gaza Strip. Some 14,800 Palestinians are believed to have been killed since the bombardment began.

On Friday, after weeks of growing outrage and calls for peace around the world, the two sides began a negotiated pause to the fighting which saw the first real relief for civilians caught in the crossfire since the fighting began. Calls continue in the US for the Biden administration to take further steps to temper Israel’s military response and to call for a permanent ceasefire with a negotiated end to the conflict.

Mr Biden has remained steadfast in his public support for Israel, however, while his administration continues to reject the growing contingent within his party calling for him to step in and demand a peaceful resolution.

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