Relatives of a three-year-old American girl whose parents were killed on October 7 and who has been held by Hamas ever since have said they hope she is released in time for her fourth birthday, on Friday.
Abigail Mor Edan’s father Roy Edan, 43, a photojournalist, and his wife Smadar Edan, 40, were killed in the terror attack but she ran away to a neighbor’s home. Her 10-year-old brother and six-year-old sister hid for 14 hours, but survived.
Abigail was kidnapped alongside the neighbors.
On Tuesday, as the news of the release of 50 Hamas hostages broke, Abigail’s great aunt said they were eagerly anticipating her return.
‘For our family, we have spent the last seven weeks worrying, wondering, praying, hoping,’ said Elizabeth Naftali, a Los Angeles-based real estate developer.
She told CNN: ‘The one thing that we all hold on to is that hope now that Abigail comes home, she comes home by Friday.
‘Friday is her 4th birthday. We need to see Abigail come out and then we will be able to believe it.’
Abigail Mor Edan, 3, has both American and Israeli citizenship and was living in Israel when terrorists from Gaza stormed her kibbutz, Kfar Azza, on October 7
Abigail’s great aunt, Elizabeth Naftali, is an LA-based real estate developer. She said they are desperately hoping she is home in time for her birthday on Friday
It is unclear how many are still alive. Nine of the 236 are thought to be US citizens.
Hamas has released four hostages to date – Israeli-American mother and daughter Judith Raanan, 59, and Natalie Raanan, 17, who were freed on October 20, as well as two Israeli citizens – Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, and Nurit Cooper, 79 – who were returned on October 23.
Joe Biden on Tuesday night said he welcomed the deal, but wanted all the hostages released.
‘Today’s deal should bring home additional American hostages, and I will not stop until they are all released,’ he said.
Israeli bombardments since have flattened large swaths of Hamas-led Gaza and killed 13,300 civilians, according to authorities in Gaza.
Protesters in Tel Aviv are pictured on November 18 demanding the release of the hostages
An estimated 200 people were taken by Hamas on October 7. It is not known how many are still alive
The US official, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, said it was likely that more than 50 hostages, largely women and children, will be released once a pause in fighting takes hold, likely on Thursday.
It is not known for sure how many Americans are in captivity, but there are believed to be nine.
Jake Sullivan, the National Security Adviser, said on November 12 that America doesn’t have a ‘precise number.’
‘We know the number of missing and that’s the number the Israelis have given. But we don’t know how many of those are still alive,’ Sullivan said.
‘As far as the Americans are concerned, there are nine missing American citizens as well as a missing legal permanent [resident], a green card holder.’
Under terms of the deal, Hamas is to release 50 hostages and Israel will release 150 Palestinian prisoners during a four- to five-day pause in the fighting.
The hostage group will include two American women and an American girl named Abigail who will turn four on Friday, the official said.
Abigail’s six-year-old sister, Amalia, and 10-year-old brother Michael witnessed Hamas come into their home and murder their mother, Smadar Edan, 40.
The two children ran to find their father, Roy, who was outside holding Abigail.
They started fleeing to shelter, but a Hamas terrorist killed Roy.
The older children ran back into their house, where their mother’s lifeless body was, and locked themselves in a closet.
Michael made a chilling phone call to his grandfather Carmel while they were trapped inside the closet.
He said: ‘Grandpa, terrorists killed dad outside the house, they killed mom and Abigail inside. I’m alone with Amalia.’
They hid there for 14 hours until they were rescued by a relative and brought to a shelter.
Abigail, the youngest sibling, somehow managed to find her way to her neighbor.
The Brodutch family took Abigail in as the rampage started.
The mother, Hagar, her three children, and Abigail then disappeared.
Abigail’s great aunt Elizabeth Naftali, a Los Angeles-based real estate developer, told Grazia on November 8: ‘We’re yet to hear anything about where Abigail is, the conditions she’s living in or when she may be released. It’s absolutely unbearable.
‘To lose my niece and her husband, to know there’s a little girl who is alone somewhere, there is no pain like it.
‘Abigail is such a beautiful child, very smart and independent. Her wonderful mother was a thoughtful, intelligent woman and she had raised these three incredible children.’
She continued: ‘Abigail is three, and while she no longer has parents, she has a huge extended family full of love: grandparents who cherish her and her siblings.
‘When she’s returned to us, she’ll stay with them.
‘All I want to do is hug that little girl and tell her she is loved and that her older siblings are desperate for her return.
‘They’re devastated and in shock, they’ve lost everything in one breath – but they hold out hope that Abigail will be back with them soon. We all do.’
Abigail’s father Roy Edan, 43, a photojournalist, and his wife Smadar Edan, 40, were buried on October 20.
Following the death of Israeli news photographer Roy Edan and his wife Smadar, Edan’s father sits next to the couples’ graves during their funeral in Kfar Harif, Israel, on October 20
U.S. Senator Susan Collins, right, holds a picture of kidnapped Israeli girl Abigail Mor Edan
Friends and family mourn Smadar Edan and Roy Edan, who were killed following the deadly infiltration by Hamas gunmen from the Gaza Strip
Abigail’s father Roy Edan, 43, and his wife Smadar Edan, 40, were murdered by Hamas. Their two eldest children, Michael and Amalia, hid in a closet and are alive. Abigail, their youngest (pictured far left) is currently a hostage in Gaza
Abigail’s parents were murdered by Hamas – shooting dead her father while she was still in his arms – but the little girl knew enough amid the panic to run to her neighbor’s for shelter
Initial releases of hostages are expected within 24 hours of the deal’s announcement, with the first likely to be freed Thursday morning, the official said.
‘I would say it’s at least 50 of the women and children over a period of four to five days,’ the official said, without providing details of any other nationalities expected to be released.
The deal will also include more deliveries of humanitarian relief aid to Gaza.
Officials hope the pause will also be observed in northern Israel where there have been clashes between Hezbollah and Israeli forces.
A rigorous inspection regime will ensure Hamas does not use the pause to rearm the group’s fighters in Gaza with weaponry, the official said.
Hamas has said ‘they actually need a pause to locate and determine where people are,’ the official said.
The pause will give Hamas time to identify and collect additional women and children, the official said.
‘We do anticipate it will be more than 50, but I just don’t want to put a number on it,’ the official said.
‘But the way the deal is structured is it very much incentivizes the release of everybody.’
Under the terms of the agreement, Hamas is to free 50 women and children of the 239 hostages it is holding in the Gaza Strip over a four-day period, the Israeli government said.
Hamas is to release 12 Israeli women and children every night for four days.
Israel said it would extend the lull by an additional day for every 10 hostages released.
In return, Israel will allow three hundred aid trucks into Gaza every day of the ceasefire and free 150 Palestinians held in Israeli jails, according to sources close to the talks.
It was not immediately clear when the truce would go into effect, but suggestions were that the first hostages would be released on Thursday.
Biden issued a statement praising the bravery of the hostages, and thanking the leaders of Qatar and Egypt for their efforts in mediating.
‘Jill and I have been keeping all those held hostage and their loved ones close to our hearts these many weeks, and I am extraordinarily gratified that some of these brave souls, who have endured weeks of captivity and an unspeakable ordeal, will be reunited with their families once this deal is fully implemented,’ he said.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said Israel would resume its offensive against Hamas after the cease-fire expires.
Netanyahu (pictured) showed his determination to press on with his objective of wiping out Hamas and said in a statement: ‘There is a lot of nonsense out there to the effect that after the pause to return our hostages, we will stop the war’
He said in a statement: ‘There is a lot of nonsense out there to the effect that after the pause to return our hostages, we will stop the war.
‘Then let me make it clear: We are at war – and will continue the war. We will continue the war until we achieve all of our war aims.
‘To eliminate Hamas, return all of our hostages and our missing, and ensure that there is no element in Gaza that threatens Israel.’
Hamas sources said that they had lost touch with ‘some groups holding hostages’ and they wanted a no-fly clause so they could carry out searches without being spied on from the skies.
Critics pointed out that Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, maintained extensive surveillance of the territory and was unlikely to have ‘lost’ the hostages.
However, a Hamas-linked group, Islamic Jihad, on Tuesday announced the death of one of the Israeli hostages.
‘We previously expressed our willingness to release her for humanitarian reasons, but the enemy was stalling and this led to her death,’ they said.
Reports online named the hostage as 76-year-old Katzir Hanna, kidnapped from the Nir Oz kibbutz.
A source close the families said: ‘She is no longer with us.’
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh had said before the cabinet meeting: ‘We are close to reaching a deal on a truce.’
Similarly Joe Biden, who alongside Qatar helped broker the deal, said that he believed a deal was ‘now very close’.
In his address to the cabinet, Netanyahu said that accepting a deal for the release of hostages was ‘a difficult decision but it’s a right decision’.
Biden had helped ‘improve the framework being laid out before you… to include more hostages at a lower price’, he told his cabinet as it met to vote on the deal.
‘The entire security establishment fully supports it.’
Biden reportedly worked ‘hour by hour’ on the deal.
The parents and relatives of children kidnapped on October 7 take part in a demonstration outside the UNICEF headquarters in Tel Aviv
A picture taken from a position near Sderot along the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip shows smoke billowing during an Israeli bombardment on Gaza
The hostages’ families had demanded that Israel should insist on the return of all those being held, and the Religious Zionist party, which is part of Netanyahu’s coalition government, had voiced opposition to the deal.
They said it was ‘bad’ for Israel’s security, for the hostages and soldiers.
There was speculation that Irish-Israeli Emily Hands, who celebrated her ninth birthday in captivity, would be among those released.
Initially it had been thought Emily was murdered – with her father Thomas saying she hoped she has been, to avoid being held in Gaza – and then the family was notified she was alive.
Israel reportedly named her as among the first handful of hostages earmarked for release, but there was no official confirmation.
Initially the plan would be for women and children to go free first and in exchange, Palestinian prisoners held in Israel would go the other way.
However, an Israeli government official said that any prisoner put forward for release could have the decision overturned if families of victims of their crimes opposed it.
The spokesman said: ‘If any of the these prisoners have blood on their hands, then the families of their victims have 24 hours to oppose their release by applying to the Supreme Court.’
IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari suggested that the hostage deal will not impact the military’s main goal of eliminating the Hamas terror group.
He said: ‘The goal of returning the hostages is significant. Even if it results in the reduction of some of the other things, we will know how to restore our operational achievements.’
He added the military will ‘first update the families of the hostages, and then the public’.