4-year-old US girl among 17 hostages freed by Hamas on the third day of truce

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Abigail Edan is pictured in this family photo. (AP)

A four-year-old American girl held by Hamas in Gaza was freed on Sunday, President Joe Biden said, as the militant group released 13 Israeli hostages, three Thais and a Russian national, on the third day of a truce. With Israel.

The release of some of the hostages taken when Hamas fighters attacked southern Israel on October 7 is expected to reflect Israel’s freeing of 39 Palestinian prisoners, another batch similar to previous days in the war.

He said he hopes the war between Israel and Hamas will continue until the prisoners are released. He said he hopes more Americans will be freed by Hamas, although he doesn’t have hard news.

Biden said the 4-year-old hostage, Abigail Edan, had been in custody since her parents were killed by Hamas fighters in an Oct. 7 raid in Israel.

“What she endured is unimaginable,” Biden said at a news conference in the US.

The four-day truce is the first cease-fire in seven weeks since Hamas killed 1,200 people and took 240 hostages in Gaza.

In response to that attack, Israel vowed to eliminate the Hamas militants who rule Gaza, bombarding the area and attacking the northern land. About 14,800 Palestinians have been killed, according to Gaza health officials, and hundreds of thousands have been displaced.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with security forces in the Gaza Strip on Sunday and signaled that the operation was still over.

“Nothing will stop us, and we are confident that we have the strength, power, will and determination to achieve all the war goals, and that is what we will do,” he said.

Netanyahu is expected to speak with Biden on Sunday.

A farmer was killed

The killing of a Palestinian farmer in the central Gaza Strip has already raised concerns about the fragility of the truce.

The farmer was killed by Israeli forces east of the long-established Magazi refugee camp in Gaza, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.

Thirteen Israelis and four Thai nationals have entered Israel after being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza earlier on Sunday for the second time in a dispute over aid supplies.

Egypt and Qatar mediated on Saturday in a bid to keep the truce alive.

The armed wing of Hamas also said on Sunday that four of its military commanders in the Gaza Strip had been killed, including Ahmed al-Ghandor, commander of the northern Gaza army. But it is not clear when they were killed.

Qatar, Egypt and the United States are pushing for the truce to be extended beyond Monday, but it is unclear whether that will happen.

Israel said the ceasefire could be extended if Hamas continued to release at least 10 hostages a day. A Palestinian source said up to 100 hostages could be freed.

West Bank violence

Of the 13 Israelis freed on Saturday, six were women and seven were minors or children. The youngest, three-year-old Yahel Shoham, was freed with her mother and brother, although her father remained a hostage.

Israel freed 39 Palestinians – 6 women and 33 minors – from two prisons, according to the Palestinian news agency Wafa.

A Reuters reporter said some Palestinians arrived at Ramallah’s municipal square in Ramallah, where thousands of their fellow citizens were waiting.

Violence erupted in the West Bank on Saturday and early Sunday morning, where Israeli soldiers killed seven Palestinians, including two teenagers, and at least one gunman, medical experts and local sources said.

Even before the October 7 Gaza offensive, the West Bank had been in the throes of 18 months of Israeli military occupation, Palestinian violence and Israeli settler violence. Since October 7, more than 200 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank, some by Israeli airstrikes.

Saturday’s transfer follows the release of 39 Palestinian women and children held in Israeli jails by Hamas, including 13 children and the elderly, who were held hostage by Israelis earlier in the day.

The four Thais who were freed on Saturday “want to shower and talk to their relatives,” Prime Minister Sereta Tavisin said on the social media site X, adding that all were safe and had few injuries.

“I’m so happy, so happy, I can’t express my feelings,” Thongkon Onkau told Reuters by phone after hearing the news of her 26-year-old son Natapor’s release.

Days of peace

Hamas’ armed wing said on Saturday that Israel was delaying the releases until it met all the conditions of the truce, including a pledge to allow all aid trucks into northern Gaza, as the deal threatened to fall apart.

Saving the deal took days of mediation and diplomacy in Qatar and Egypt, which President Biden joined.

The Al-Qassam Brigades said Israel had failed to honor terms regarding the release of Palestinian prisoners due to their detention.

Israel’s agency for Palestinian civil coordination, COGAT, itself accused Hamas of delaying trucks trying to deliver humanitarian aid to northern Gaza at a checkpoint.

“For Hamas, the residents of Gaza are their last act,” he said on Sunday.

Saturday also brought hours for families of hostages, some whose joy was tempered by the captivity of others.

Mirit Regev, the mother of Maya Regev, who was released early Saturday, said in a statement issued by the Forum of Hostages and Disappeared Families, “My son is torn apart because my son Itai is still in Hamas custody.”

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