4-year-old American freed by Hamas can now get love, healing 'she so badly deserves': White House

Abigail Idan was one of 10 Americans believed to be held hostage in Gaza.

November 26, 2023, 12:43 PM

Just hours before 4-year-old American hostage Abigail Idan was confirmed to be have been released by Hamas in Gaza, a top White House adviser said they were optimistic she would soon have "a moment of joy" and be reunited with loved ones.

"That's what we are waiting for as we speak," the White House's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told ABC "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl.

Shortly after Sullivan's interview, Israeli officials confirmed that another 17 hostages had been let out of Gaza as part of an ongoing cease-fire and prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas in the wake of Hamas' Oct. 7 terror attack.

Abigail is the first American freed out of 10 who are thought to be Hamas captives. The others include two women and seven men; one of them is a lawful permanent resident, or green card holder, according to Sullivan.

Abigail's parents were killed in front of her during the October attack in southern Israel, Sullivan said on "This Week" -- describing what she endured as "unspeakable." She marked her most recent birthday just two days ago.

PHOTO: Abigail Mor-Edan, 3, in an undated image.
Abigail Mor-Edan, 3, in an undated image.
Liz Naftali

"Our hope is that [Abigail] gets out, gets into the hands of her family -- or into the loving arms of her family and that they can help the long, slow process of allowing her to heal and to find the love that she so badly deserves," Sullivan said on Sunday morning.

Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat, said in his own interview on "This Week" that he had recently met with Abigail's aunt.

"She was not focused on the brutal murder of her family. She was focused on Abigail, getting her out. Such resilience," he said.

The cease-fire between Israel and Hamas could be extended in exchange for Hamas freeing more of the 200-plus people who are thought to be held captive in Gaza, Sullivan said.

"The ball is in Hamas' court on that because what Israel has said is that it is prepared to pause another day of fighting for every 10 hostages that Hamas releases. ... If the pause stops, responsibility for that rests on the shoulders of Hamas, not on the shoulders of Israel," Sullivan said.

PHOTO: This undated photo released by Hostages and Missing Families Forum Headquarters shows Avigail Idan, 4 years old. Avigail was one of the third group of hostages released by Hamas on Nov. 26, 2023, as part of truce deal.
This undated photo released by Hostages and Missing Families Forum Headquarters shows Avigail Idan, 4 years old. Avigail was one of the third group of hostages released by Hamas on Nov. 26, 2023, as part of truce deal.
Hostages and Missing Families Forum headquarters via AP

Israel and Hamas are currently in the middle of a tenuous, four-day truce during which Israel plans to release 150 Palestinians and Hamas will release 50 hostages. Large amounts of humanitarian aid are also supposed to be allowed into Gaza, which has been bombarded by Israel's retaliatory military operations.

The first set of captives in Gaza were released on Friday.

After the cease-fire ultimately ends, intense fighting in Gaza is anticipated to resume.

"Ultimately, Israel is going to want to continue to conduct military operations against Hamas, particularly the leadership of Hamas that were the architects of this brutal, bloody massacre," Sullivan said.

More than 1,200 people were killed on Oct. 7, according to Israeli officials.

At the same time, Israel has faced ongoing outcry from outside humanitarian groups and others over the death toll in Gaza and the danger to civilians.

More than 14,000 people have been killed there, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

The conflict has divided Democrats between those who fully support Israel's response and others calling for an end to the fighting, in light of the Gaza casualties.

Khanna told Karl he had changed his own opinion on the issue and is now advocating for a "lasting cease-fire."

PHOTO: A vehicle carrying Israeli hostages released by Hamas from the Gaza Strip arrives at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, early on Nov. 26, 2023.
A vehicle carrying Israeli hostages released by Hamas from the Gaza Strip arrives at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, early on Nov. 26, 2023.
Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

"First, we need more of the hostages to be released, and we've seen now that it's working. Second, there's still Americans in Gaza. We need those Americans and American families to be released," he said. "The third point is, Israel has diminished Hamas' military capability. They now have troops to prevent another Oct. 7 attack."

Asked if he shared the view of Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who recently said there should be "conditions" on aid to Israel, such as making sure it followed international law, Khanna indicated he largely agreed -- but said that rule shouldn't be applied just to Israel, which insists it takes steps to protect civilians amid the war.

"Any aid to the United States needs to be consistent with human rights law. I support the aid for the Iron Dome [an Israeli anti-missile system] and defensive equipment for Israel, for equipment Israel may need to deter Iran, but we need to make sure, and our State Department needs to make sure, that any of our aid isn't used in a way that violates human rights," Khanna said. "That's not just for Israel, that's around the world."

Khanna said the broader solution to the violence must be diplomatic.

"Here's the reality on the ground: There are 40,000 Hamas fighters -- 40,000. Israel has killed 2,000. It is unrealistic that they're going to be able to kill 40,000 Hamas fighters, let alone undermine the political and cultural influence of Hamas. So,we need a real solution," he said. "And that needs to be a Palestinian state with an Israel state."

The so-called two-state solution has been a goal of American diplomacy for decades, but such efforts have repeatedly failed.

Khanna said that it must be a priority, with the U.S. directly involved -- while excluding Hamas, whom he said was a terrorist organization.

"There is not going to be peace or security in that region, and America needs to show leadership. I believe our Gulf allies will help us if we bring the diverse Palestinian voices to the table," he said. "There needs to be one condition: Any Palestinian voice at that table needs to recognize the state of Israel, and then we need to work towards an independent Palestinian state."

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