Abigail Mor Edan, the 4-year-old American held hostage by Hamas, is now free. Here’s

Abigail Mor Edan, the youngest U.S. citizen held by Hamas, was among the group of hostages released back to Israel on Sunday, both President Biden and the Israeli military confirmed.

Abigail, whose parents were killed in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks on Israel, turned 4 years old last week while in captivity in Gaza. She was kidnapped and taken to the Palestinian enclave during the deadly rampage along with an estimated 240 others, according to Israeli officials. 

Her name had appeared on a list of hostages that Hamas previously said it planned to release on Sunday, Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told to “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan. However, multiple sources had indicated to Brennan that no release was certain due to the delicate nature of the situation. 

Abigail Mor Edan, a 4-year-old Israeli-American girl kidnapped by Hamas during the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, was among the hostages freed on Sunday.

CBS Mornings / Naftali family

The hostages released on Sunday followed two earlier waves of releases that hinged on a deal with Israel that would see the release of at least 50 women and children held captive in Gaza, as well as the release of about 150 Palestinian women and teenagers imprisoned in Israel. The terms also included a temporary cease-fire agreement that would allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza and displaced Palestinians to return at their discretion to their homes in the ravaged northern part of the territory. 

The pause in fighting was agreed to last four days — with Sunday being the third day — although Israel has said it would be willing to extend the cease-fire one day for every 10 additional hostages released by Hamas.

Seventeen hostages, including Abigail, were released by Hamas on Sunday. Fourteen of them are Israeli citizens and three are foreign nationals, Israeli officials said. Abigail, who is Israeli-American, holds citizenship in Israel and the U.S. 

It was not immediately clear which countries the three foreign nationals are from, but White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said during a separate “Face the Nation” interview Sunday morning that the U.S. has “reason to believe that Americans will be released today — at least one American will be released today.”

President Biden in televised remarks Sunday directly addressed Abigail’s release. 

“She’s free and she’s in Israel now,” Mr. Biden said, adding that Abigail has “been through a terrible trauma.” The child’s mother was killed in front of her by Hamas militants before her father was also gunned down while using his body to shield Abigail from the attack. Abigail then ran to neighbors for help, Mr. Biden said. 

“What she endured is unthinkable,” he said.

Abigail’s great-aunt, Liz Hirsh Naftali, and her cousin, Noa Naftali, said in a statement Sunday, “We hoped and prayed today would come. There are no words to express our relief and gratitude that Abigail is safe and coming home.”

They thanked President Biden and the Qatari government, adding, “Today’s release proves that it’s possible. We can get all hostages back home. We have to keep pushing.”

Liz Hirsh Naftali and Noa Naftali told “CBS Mornings” on Wednesday that the child had been captured along with neighbors from the Kfar Aza kibbutz, where she lived with her parents and two older siblings. The siblings, who are 6 and 10 years old, survived the attack by locking themselves inside a closet and hiding there for 14 hours, Noa Natfali said.

“We thought at the beginning that Abigail had died, but we later found out that she survived. Her father was able to shield her with his body,” Noa Naftali said. “She crawled out from underneath him and went over to the neighbors, who took her in, and they were also taken hostage — a mother, a 10-year-old, an 8-year old and a 4-year old who goes to preschool with Abigail.”

Family of 3-year-old American hostage reacts to Israel-Hamas release deal

Liz Hirsh Naftali said the family learned several days later that a witness had seen the neighbor being led out of the kibbutz with her three children as well as Abigail during the Hamas attack. “And then we did not find out any more information,” she said.

Noa Naftali told “CBS Mornings” that Abigail would live with her aunt, uncle and grandparents, with whom her siblings were already staying, if she was among the hostages released. She said the family would be able to provide the children with “the love and support that they need after losing their parents.”

“She ran that house,” Liz Hirsh Naftali said of Abigail. “We know that for her to come back, for her sister and her brother, is their one hope. This is one of the things that we just keep hearing, that they know exactly what happened on Oct. 7. Yes, they witnessed it. They are 6 and 10. They understand. … The one piece that they can only hope that will come to give some sort of an ability for a closure and to move on is that Abigail comes back.”

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