ISRAEL + HAMAS

4-year-old Israeli American hostage is released

Nov 26, 2023, 10:48 AM | Updated: Nov 30, 2023, 5:22 pm

Image of Abigail Edan, now in the hands of Red Cross officials, a senior US official told CNN. (Hos...

Abigail Edan is in the hands of Red Cross officials, a senior US official told CNN. (Hostages and Missing Families Forum via CNN)

(Hostages and Missing Families Forum via CNN)

Originally Published: 26 NOV 23 10:57 ET
Updated: 26 NOV 23 12:36 ET

Editor’s note: CNN’s Kaitlan Collins and Jack Forrest contributed to this report.

(CNN) — Abigail Edan, the 4-year-old American dual citizen abducted by Hamas on October 7, has been released – marking the first successful release of an American hostage since the start of a truce between Israel and Hamas. Edan is one of the 17 hostages released Sunday.

President Joe Biden welcomed Abigail’s release, saying in a speech from Nantucket, Massachusetts, that she is receiving love, care and “the supportive services she needs” and adding that he was “hopeful this is not the end of the temporary truce.”

Biden said the girl “has been through a terrible trauma.” Her mother was killed in front of her, the president said. She then ran to her father, Biden said, who used his body to shield his daughter and was killed.

“What she endured was unthinkable,” he said. Biden added that Abigail was now in Israel but said that he did not have details on her condition.

Biden said he would speak shortly with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying the two would discuss implementation of the existing deal and efforts to extend it to bring additional hostages home.

News of Abigail’s release comes after national security adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN’s Dana Bash that the Biden administration had “reason to believe” one of the Americans held hostage would be released Sunday.

“We’re dealing with Hamas. We are in a ‘don’t trust, but verify’ situation here. And so we have reason to believe that there will be an American release today,” Sullivan said on “State of the Union.”

“Today should be a good day, a joyful day, but until we actually see it happen, we are going to remain really at the edge of our seat,” Sullivan said.

Two American women who are unaccounted for are also expected to be part of the group of 50 women and children hostages released as part of a four-day truce, now in its third day.

“She turned 4 just two days ago,” Sullivan said of Edan. “She has been through hell. She had her parents killed right in front of her and has been held hostage for the last several weeks.”

No Americans were released as part of the deal on Friday or Saturday. There are 10 Americans who are unaccounted for at this time.

Twenty-four hostages – including 13 Israeli civilians and 11 foreign nationals – were freed on Friday, followed by 17 more – 13 Israelis and four Thai nationals – on Saturday as part of the brokered deal between Hamas and Israel. All 41 foreign nationals released by Hamas from captivity in Gaza are stable, according to medical professionals.

Sullivan said that it is difficult to know the true status of the Americans who were taken captive in Gaza during Hamas’ brutal cross-border assault on October 7.

“We cannot say for certain whether all three of them are still alive. But we do know this: We have reason to believe that today, one American will be released,” he said.

Omer Neutra, a dual US-Israeli citizen, is among the Israel Defense Forces soldiers kidnapped by Hamas, his parents have told CNN. Sullivan said he has been “candid” with Neutra’s parents and the parents of other American hostages.

“I told them directly … that we do not know the specific whereabouts or condition of Omer or other Americans because until the end of this deal, until the end of tomorrow we will not have, from the Red Cross, proof of life or other information. … So, as we learn that information, we will absolutely share it with the parents,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan also spoke about Hamas agreeing to allow the Red Cross to visit the remaining hostages in Gaza and said the US is leaning on Qatari and Egyptian officials to ensure that happens by the end of Monday.

“We do believe that Hamas has obliged to maintain its part of the commitment on Red Cross visitation of the hostages and we expect Qatar and Egypt and other countries to hold Hamas accountable to hold that commitment by the end of tomorrow,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said Israel is prepared to extend the pause in fighting in exchange for Hamas releasing 10 hostages each day, adding, “The ball is really in Hamas’ court.”

“If Hamas wants to see an extension of the pause in fighting, it can continue to release hostages,” Sullivan said. “If it chooses not to release hostages, then the end of the pause is its responsibility, not Israel’s, because it is holding these hostages completely illegitimately and against all bounds of human decency or the laws of war, so really we will see what Hamas ends up choosing to do.”

While Israeli officials work to care for the released hostages and reunite them with their families, Sullivan said, they will also look to glean any information about Hamas in hostage debriefings on their time in captivity.

“Israel is focused on learning anything it can about whereabouts, locations, and other information based on conversations they have with the released hostages in the days ahead,” he said.

Humanitarian aid into Gaza

Sullivan also detailed some of the inspection mechanisms involved with getting humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Before aid goes into the Rafah crossing into Gaza, Sullivan said, it is checked by Israelis “to make sure that it is in fact humanitarian supplies and not goods that could help Hamas in its military campaign.”

The aid trucks then go to United Nations depots and other humanitarian organizations that, he said, are “vetted and trusted partners.”

From there, he said, the aid is “distributed directly to the people.”

“As humanitarian assistance has ramped up, we’ve seen it work – that it’s actually getting to people and that it’s not being diverted into the hands of Hamas,” Sullivan said.

The United Nations said Friday that 137 trucks carrying aid, including 129,000 liters of fuel and four trucks of gas, were offloaded in Gaza on the first day of the pause, marking the largest humanitarian convoy to enter the strip since October 7. Another 70 trucks carrying food, water, fuel and medical supplies entered Gaza through the Rafah crossing on Saturday, according to a border crossing spokesperson.

Biden is in “close touch” with Israel and UN leadership to ensure “the aid is getting to where it belongs, which is the innocent people who are suffering.”

Sullivan declined to weigh in on Israeli politics, but said Biden’s engagement with Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu “has paid dividends.”

“He’s going to continue to focus on that high-level direct leader to leader diplomacy and leave others to determine the politics, the political considerations,” Sullivan said.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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4-year-old Israeli American hostage is released