Biden seeks to extend Gaza pause, thanks God for release of American toddler
“Our goal is to keep this pause going beyond tomorrow so that we can continue to see more hostages come out and surge more humanitarian relief into Gaza,” President Biden said today.
President Biden expressed joy and relief at the release of an American toddler among 17 hostages freed by Hamas today, nine of them children; and said his goal is to work to try to get the current pause extended beyond tomorrow, so more hostages can be released, and more humanitarian aid surged into Gaza.
“Two days ago, one of our fellow Americans, a little girl named Abigail, turned four years old,” Biden said, describing the harrowing 50 days the child spent in Hamas captivity after witnessing both of her parents killed in the Hamas massacre of 1,200 Israelis on Oct. 7. “Today she is free. And Jill and I, together with so many Americans, are praying for the fact that she is going to be alright.”
“Our goal is to keep this pause going beyond tomorrow so that we can continue to see more hostages come out and surge more humanitarian relief into Gaza,” Biden said, speaking in Nantucket minutes after the hostage release today (Nov. 26).
Meantime, Qatar’s Prime Minister, a key mediator in the four-day pause and hostage release deal currently underway, suggested in an interview today that a further pause may help Hamas locate as many as 40 additional Israeli women and children believed to have been kidnapped Oct. 7 and taken to Gaza by gangs outside of Hamas’s direct control.
“If they get additional women and children, there will be an extension,” Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told the Financial Times today. “We don’t yet have any clear information how many they [Hamas] can find because…one of the purposes [of the pause] is they will have time to search for the rest of the missing people.”
The Qatari prime minister told the paper that “Israel had provided Qatar with a list of more than 90 women and children” believed kidnapped on Oct. 7, the FT wrote, 40 more than the 50 women and children whose release has been negotiated to occur over the four-day pause currently set to expire on Monday. He said “Israel was willing to extend the temporary truce if ‘there’s proof’ that Hamas has more women and children to release, ‘but nothing beyond that,’” the FT reported.
Biden: “My goal: to keep this pause going”
Biden said he would be speaking with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today. He vowed to remain personally engaged “to see that this deal is fully implemented, and work to extend the deal as well.”
“This deal is delivering life-saving results,” Biden said. “Critically needed aid is going in, and hostages are coming out.
“And this deal is structured so that it can be extended to keep building on these results,” he said. “That’s my goal….To keep this pause going beyond tomorrow.”
Also freed in the third day of the hostage release deal today were the two daughters of Maayan Zin, Dafna Elyakim, 15, and Ela Elyakim, 8, among 14 Israelis and three Thais freed today. The eldest of the 14 Israelis released today, 84 year old Elma Avraham, was apparently sick and was helicoptered directly to a hospital in Israel, while some of the others were transferred within central Gaza to Israeli custody, before being reunited with family members.
“I have been waiting for this moment for 51 days,” Maayan Zin tweeted today, with a photo of a poster of her two daughters that now says “Dafna and Ela are back home!”
“Finally reunited,” Zin tweeted. It’s real.”
Six of the nine Israeli children released today, including Abigail mor Idan, and Dafna and Ela Elyakim, had one or both parents murdered by Hamas on Oct. 7, Aviva Klompas, a former speechwriter for the Israeli mission to the UN, wrote on Twitter. “Some may only find out today.
Zin had previously written that she believed her daughters witnessed the killing of their father, Noam Elyakim, in the Hamas attack on his kibbutz, Nir Oz, on Oct. 7.
Abigail’s father, Roy Edan, was a photojournalist for Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronoth and the Ynet online news site. Both he and her mother, Smadar, were killed in the Hamas rampage on Oct. 7. Her siblings, Michael, 9, and Amalya, 6, survived, reportedly hiding in a closet.
Abigail “has been through a terrible trauma,” Biden said today. “Her mom was killed in front of her, when her kibbutz was attacked by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7. Abigail ran to her dad…who then was gunned down… while using his body to shield little Abigail. She then ran to a neighbor for help, where they were all taken hostage.”
“What she endured in unthinkable,” Biden said. “She is now safely in Israel. And we continue to press and expect for additional Americans will be released as well. And we will not stop working until every hostage is returned to their loved ones.”
Many of the 14 Israelis released today were from the kibbutz of Kfar Aza, whose residents, now relocated away from their destroyed homes to Shefayim, erupted into cheers as they saw images on television of their loved ones on the Red Cross buses of those being transferred to Israeli hands today. (This short video clip of the community cheering, posted by Times of Israel correspondent Carrie Keller-Lynn to Twitter/X, is incredibly moving.)
Biden and the Kfar Azar residents demonstrated palpable relief and joy at the good news today, especially after heightened tension yesterday at Hamas delaying the hostage release over its complaints that not as much aid was allegedly going into north Gaza as it had expected, and that those Palestinians being released from Israeli prison as part of the deal were not those that had served the longest terms.
Biden and his team spoke multiple times Saturday with Qatari, Egyptian and Israeli officials to encourage the obstacles be overcome, and he expressed particular gratitude to Qatar’s Amir today as being instrumental.
“This is a day by day approach, hour by hour process,” Biden said. “Nothing is guaranteed … 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.”
“Thank God she is home,” Biden said, of Abigail’s release.
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