Washington —US President Joe Biden confirmed on Sunday that the youngest American held hostage by Hamas was among the hostages released by Hamas on Sunday.
“She is free and in Israel now,” President Biden said on Sunday, adding that she is “suffering from terrible trauma.”
Mr. Biden said Abigail’s mother was killed in front of her. Biden said the girl ran to her father, who was shot while using his body to protect her, before running to neighbors for help.
“What I endured is unimaginable,” he added.
The girl’s family said in a statement: “There are no words to express our relief and gratitude that Abigail is safe and back home.”
Israeli officials said 17 hostages were released – 14 Israeli citizens, including Abigail, an Israeli-American citizen, and three foreign nationals.
The Qatari Foreign Ministry said that 39 Palestinians would also be released as part of the hostage exchange.
Three American hostages – including Abigail – were expected to be released in the four-day truce. It is not clear whether it will be extended.
“The agreement includes a clause that if Hamas – will be able to prove, locate and secure some of the hostages who fall within the criteria of the first group, which is women and children, then it will be extended depending on the situation,” the Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani said in press statements: “The number they will have. This is something we cannot confirm yet until we reach the fourth day, and Hamas must present the list if it is available to them.” An exclusive interview with the “Face the Nation” program.
Israel has publicly said it is prepared to extend the cessation of fighting by one day for every 10 hostages released. When asked if Hamas was able to locate any other hostages in Gaza during the cessation of fighting, Al Thani said there was no such contact yet. During this phase, in the first part of the deal, Israel agreed to release three Palestinian prisoners for every hostage – which meant children for children, women for women.
After all the children and civilians are released, the second phase of the potential hostage release will include female soldiers, elderly hostages, and eventually men, according to Al Thani. Negotiations over the men are complicated because they will be treated as military reservists as if they were active-duty soldiers. Some details still need to be ironed out.
There are a total of 10 Americans missing, including one legal resident. White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said he was “confident that all individuals held hostage will return home.”
On Sunday, Hamas also released a woman named Aviva or Adrian Siegel, the wife of American citizen Keith Siegel. Although she is not a US citizen, the Biden team has defended her and continues to do so for her husband, who remains in captivity.
Sullivan said the White House remains in close contact with authorities in Qatar and Egypt, which helped broker the hostage release deal, as well as with Israeli officials.
Since Friday, Hamas has released himwho have remained detained in Gaza since the terrorist attack. As part of the US-Qatari-brokered agreement, Israel and Hamas agreed to a short-term ceasefire, and Israel is also releasing dozens of Palestinian prisoners.
Hamas released 13 Israelis and four Thais on Saturday, and 13 Israeli hostages, 10 Thai hostages and a Filipino hostage were also released on Friday, according to officials.
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