Biden says 4-year-old Abigail Edan was released by Hamas. He hopes more U.S. hostages will be freed

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NANTUCKET, Mass. (AP) — President Joe Biden confirmed Sunday that Abigail Edan, a 4-year-old American girl held hostage by Hamas after her parents were killed, was released as part of the cease-fire deal in the Israel-Hamas war and was “safely in Israel.”

“Thank God she’s home.” Biden said told reporters. “I wish I were there to hold her.”

She was the first American hostage to be released under terms of the cease-fire. Biden said he did not have immediate information on Abigail’s condition.

Hamas militants stormed her kibbutz, Kfar Azza, on Oct. 7 and killed her parents. She ran to a neighbor’s home for shelter, and the Brodutch family — mother Hagar and her three children — took Abigail in as the rampage raged. Then all five disappeared and were later confirmed to be captives. They were among the more than 200 people taken to Gaza in the attack that touched off the war. Abigail had a birthday in captivity.

Before the cease-fire, the first hostages were released on Oct. 17 — Judith and Natalie Raanan, an American woman and her teenage daughter. Their release was regarded as a successful test-case for negotiating the larger deal, according to U.S. officials.

Along with Abigail, the Brodutch family was in the group, ranging in age from 4 to 84, released Sunday. Red Cross representatives transferred the hostages out of Gaza. Some were handed over directly to Israel, while others left through Egypt. Israel’s army said one was airlifted directly to a hospital.

“They’ve endured a terrible ordeal,” Biden said, and can now begin the “long journey toward healing.”

Biden described the negotiations as a day-by-day, hour-by-hour process and said he would continue working until all hostages were free.

“Nothing is guaranteed and nothing is being taken for granted. But the proof that this is working and worth pursuing further is in every smile and every grateful tear we see on the faces of those families who are finally getting back together again. The proof is little Abigail,” the president said.

Biden said in remarks from Nantucket, the Massachusetts islands where he spent Thanksgiving with his family, that the cease-fire agreement was “delivering lifesaving results.”

Israel was to free 39 Palestinian prisoners later Sunday as part of the deal. A fourth exchange was expected on Monday — the last day of the cease-fire during which a total of 50 hostages and 150 Palestinian prisoners were to be freed. All are women and minors.

Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said before Abigail’s release that nine U.S. citizens and one lawful permanent resident were being held hostage. “Three of them are women and children. Seven of them are men,” he told ABC’s “This Week.” It’s not clear whether they are all alive.

Biden said he was “hopeful” the others would be released. “We will not stop working until every hostage is returned to their loved ones,’’ he said.

International mediators led by representatives from the United States and Qatar are trying to extend the cease-fire. Biden, who has spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu many times since the fighting began, planned to do so again later Sunday.

“Critically needed aid is going in and hostages are coming out,” Biden said. “And this deal is structured so that it can be extended to keep building on these results. That’s my goal, that’s our goal to keep this pause going beyond tomorrow so that we can continue to see more hostages come out and surge more humanitarian relief into those who are in need in Gaza.”

The war has claimed the lives of more than 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians killed by Hamas in the initial attack. More than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed, roughly two thirds of them women and minors, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

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Long reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Sara Burnett in Chicago contributed to this report.

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