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Biden celebrates release of some Hamas hostages

Biden urged a broader effort to emerge from the crisis with a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel
St. Aidan's High School, a Catholic-maintained school in Derrylin, County Fermanagh.

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the release of hostages from Gaza, in Nantucket, Massachusetts, on Nov. 26. (Photo: AFP)

Published: November 27, 2023 06:22 AM GMT

President Joe Biden said Nov. 26 that he and first lady Jill Biden, "together with so many Americans are praying," for 4-year-old Abigail Edan, an Israeli-American child who was in the third group of hostages released a few hours earlier by Hamas.

"Thank God she's home. I wish I were there to hold her," he said in remarks from Nantucket, Massachusetts, where Biden and his family celebrated Thanksgiving.

"We're looking for a way to end this, so the hostages are all released and Hamas is … no longer in control of any portion of Gaza," he added.

Besides Abigail, the third group of hostages included 12 Israelis, one American woman and three Thai nationals, according to The Associated Press. In exchange, Israel confirmed it freed another 39 Palestinians.

The first hostage group was freed by Hamas Nov. 24, and included 13 Israeli civilians -- four children, three mothers and six other women -- as well as 10 Thai and one Filipino. The second group was freed late Nov. 25 and included 13 Israelis -- eight children and five women -- and four Thai nationals. Israel released 39 Palestinians for each of the hostage groups.

On Nov. 27, the last day of the four-day cease-fire, a fourth exchange of hostages for Palestinians was expected. AP reported that mediators are trying to extend the cease-fire.

In his remarks, Biden said Abigail is now being wrapped "in love and care" and would be getting the "supportive services she needs."

"She's been through a terrible trauma you know. Her mom was killed in front of her when
her kibbutz was attacked by Hamas," he said, referring to the militant group's assault on Israel Oct. 7. "Abigail ran to her dad, who then was gunned down as well while using his body to shield little Abigail. She then ran to a neighbor for help where they were all taken hostage … by Hamas and held for 50 days. What she endured is unthinkable."

In answer to a reporter's question, Biden said he had received no information as to Abigail's physical condition but knows she is "safely ensconced in Israel." He noted that an elderly non-American woman in the same group was "very sick and was in need of immediate medical help."

"There's a lot more work to be done" to get all the hostages released, he said, adding that he would like to see the cease-fire "go on as long as" it takes for them all to be freed.

Hamas abducted nearly 240 people in the group's Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Israel has indicated that the cease-fire could be extended if more hostages are released, but that it intends to resume its response to the Oct. 7 attack.

He told reporters in a Nov. 24 briefing after the first group of hostages was released, "I remain in personal contact with the leaders of Qatar, Egypt and Israel to make sure this stays on track and every aspect of the deal is implemented."

He also noted that aid supplies being delivered into Gaza during the cease-fire are needed "to support the innocent Palestinians who are suffering greatly because of this war that Hamas has unleashed," Biden said, adding, "Hamas doesn't give a damn about them."

Biden said, "As we look to the future, we have to end this cycle of violence in the Middle East."

"We need to renew our resolve to pursue this two-state solution where Israelis and Palestinians can one-day live side by side in a two-state solution with an equal measure of freedom and dignity, two states for two people," he said. "And it's more important now than ever. Hamas unleashed this terrorist attack because they fear nothing more than Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace."

Biden said that peace would ensure "children in the region, every child, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Israeli, Palestinian our grow up knowing only peace."

Asked if he trusted Hamas to follow through, Biden said, "I don't trust Hamas to do anything right. I only trust Hamas to respond to pressure."

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