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‘Growing optimism’ for release of four-year-old hostage

Jake Sullivan, White House national security adviser, speaks during a news conference in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, DC, US, on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022.

Ken Cedeno | Bloomberg | Getty Images

United States National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that he is cautiously hopeful that the next wave of released hostages will include four-year-old Israeli-American Abigail Mor Idan.

Sunday marks the third day of the four-day military pause, the first since Oct. 7, during which 50 hostages held in Gaza by Hamas are due to be freed under the terms of an agreement between Israel and Hamas. Idan is among three Americans that the U.S. believes will be released during this four-day cease-fire.

“I want to be cautious about making any firm statements until we actually see that individual crossed the border to safety,” Sullivan said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “But I am going to say that we have growing optimism about Abigail and we will now watch and see what happens.”

Idan, the youngest of the American hostages, turned four years old while in captivity this past week. She was orphaned on Oct. 7, the day of Hamas’ brutal terror attack when the group kidnapped roughly 240 hostages from Israel and killed an estimated 1,200 people, including both of Idan’s parents. The Oct. 7 attack triggered a counteroffensive from Israel that has killed an estimated tens of thousands in Gaza.

Sullivan’s optimism that Idan may be freed Sunday is based on a list of names that the Israeli Prime Minister’s office said it received early Sunday morning.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani confirmed Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that Idan’s name was on the list. Qatar has used its relations with Hamas to help broker the hostage deal alongside the U.S. and Egypt, which were also involved in the Israel-Hamas negotiations. The prime minister also expressed hope that the other Americans believed to be in captivity will be released soon.

“Hopefully, that will happen very shortly from now,” he said.

These updates come as families of hostages anxiously wait to see if their loved one is in the group who gets released each day. On the terms of this first agreement, which was solidified last week, Hamas has committed to releasing 50 women and children hostages over the four-day pause in exchange for a number of Israel’s Palestinian prisoners.

In the first two days of the temporary cease-fire, 24 hostages have been released from Gaza in exchange for 39 Palestinian prisoners. Each wave of release is precarious, which is why officials have spoken cautiously about their hopes for future releases. On Saturday, a dispute about aid deliveries to Gaza delayed the second hostage release for several hours.

Orna and Ronen Neutra are the parents of Omer Neutra, an Israeli-American from Long Island, New York, who was serving for the Israel Defense Forces and went missing on Oct. 7.

“The first two releases gave us hope,” Orna said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We’re cautiously excited about the expected release today of more children and women, but Omer’s not being released yet.”

While it is a positive sign that women and children are being released, she said that there needs to be a sustained push for the release of all the hostages: “It’s not going to end before they’re all out.”

There is a clause within the current Israel-Hamas agreement that would extend the military pause if Hamas agrees to release additional hostages beyond the initial 50.

“If Hamas is prepared to release additional hostages, Israel has indicated as part of this agreement that it is prepared for additional days in a pause to the fighting,” Sullivan said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “The ball really is in Hamas’ court.”

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