A Red Cross vehicle, as part of a convoy believed to be carrying hostages abducted by Hamas militants during the October 7 attack on Israel, arrives at the Rafah border, amid a hostages-prisoners swap deal between Hamas and Israel, as seen from southern Gaza Strip November 24, 2023.
Ibraheem Abu Mustafa | Reuters
The Israeli Prime Minister’s office confirmed that 17 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza were released on Sunday, including four-year-old Israeli-American Abigail Mor Edan.
The Prime Minister’s office said that 14 of the individuals were Israeli citizens, while the other three were foreign nationals. The office published the following list of names of the 14 Israeli citizens:
- Abigail Edan, 4 years old
- Alma Avraham, 84 years old
- Aviva Adrian Siegel, 62 years old
- Ron Cariboy, 25 years old
- Hagar Brodetz, 40 years old
- Ofri Brodetz, 10 years old
- Yuval Brodetz, 8 years old
- Uriah Brodetz, 4 years old
- Chen Goldstein Almog, 48 years old
- Agam Goldstein Almog, 17 years old
- Gal Goldstein Almog, 11 years old
- Tal Goldstein Almog, 8 years old
- Dafna Elikim, 15 years old
- Ella Elikim, 8 years old
The release on Sunday, the third day of the four-day military pause, brings the total number of freed hostages to 41. Fifty Hamas hostages are due to be freed over the four days under the terms of an agreement between Israel and Hamas. In the first two days of the temporary cease-fire, 24 hostages were released from Gaza in exchange for 39 Palestinian prisoners.
Edan is among three Americans that the U.S. believes will be released during this four-day cease-fire.
Edan, the youngest of the American hostages, turned four years old while in captivity this past week. She was orphaned on Oct. 7, the day of Hamas’ brutal terror attack when the group kidnapped roughly 240 hostages from Israel and killed an estimated 1,200 people, including both of Edan’s parents. The Oct. 7 attack triggered a counteroffensive from Israel that has killed an estimated tens of thousands in Gaza.
“She’s free and she’s in Israel now,” President Joe Biden said at a Sunday press conference following the announcement of the third release. “Those who are wrapping Abigail in love and care and the supportive services she needs, she’s been through a terrible trauma.”
Biden said he did not yet have details on Edan’s physical condition but reported that an elderly woman was “in need of immediate medical help” upon release. Biden said that individuals on the ground provided an ambulance escort to get her to the nearest hospital.
Earlier Sunday, United States National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan expressed cautious optimism about Edan’s potential release based on a list of names that the Israeli Prime Minister’s office said it received Sunday morning.
“I want to be cautious about making any firm statements until we actually see that individual crossed the border to safety,” Sullivan said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “But I am going to say that we have growing optimism about Abigail.”
Each wave of release is precarious, which is why officials have spoken tentatively about their hopes for future releases. On Saturday, a dispute about aid deliveries to Gaza delayed the second hostage release for several hours.
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani confirmed earlier Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that Edan’s name was on the third list of hostages. Qatar has used its relations with Hamas to help broker the hostage deal alongside the U.S. and Egypt, which were also involved in the Israel-Hamas negotiations. The prime minister also expressed hope that the other Americans believed to be in captivity will be released soon.
“Hopefully, that will happen very shortly from now,” he said.
These updates come as families of hostages anxiously wait to see if their loved one is in the group who gets released each day. On the terms of this first agreement, which was solidified last week, Hamas has committed to releasing 50 women and children hostages over the four-day pause in exchange for a number of Israel’s Palestinian prisoners.
Orna and Ronen Neutra are the parents of Omer Neutra, an Israeli-American from Long Island, New York, who was serving for the Israel Defense Forces and went missing on Oct. 7.
“The first two releases gave us hope,” Orna said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We’re cautiously excited about the expected release today of more children and women, but Omer’s not being released yet.”
While it is a positive sign that women and children are being released, she said that there needs to be a sustained push for the release of all the hostages: “It’s not going to end before they’re all out.”
There is a clause within the current Israel-Hamas agreement that would extend the military pause if Hamas agrees to release additional hostages beyond the initial 50.
“If Hamas is prepared to release additional hostages, Israel has indicated as part of this agreement that it is prepared for additional days in a pause to the fighting,” Sullivan said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “The ball really is in Hamas’ court.”