Family of American toddler held hostage says they are cautiously hopeful for her return amid deal with Hamas

Abigail Mor Edan, a 3-year-old Israeli-American girl whose parents were gunned down in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, could be among the women and children released by the U.S.-designated terrorist organization as part of a deal with Israel.

Abigail’s great-aunt, Liz Hirsh Naftali, told “CBS Mornings” her family isn’t sure whether or not Abigail will be released, but she hopes the emphasis on women and children means that the toddler, who is the youngest American being held, will come home ahead of her fourth birthday on Friday. 

“We have heard really nothing other than what people are hearing in the press, in the news,” Liz Hirsh Naftali said on Wednesday.

“We are hoping and praying that she is in one of the first groups, but we only can know that’s our hope,” she said. “We haven’t had any confirmation. We haven’t seen any lists. We are going with the belief that because she’s 3 years old, and no child should be a hostage, no child should be in this situation, that she will be early in the releasing.” 

Abigail Mor Edan.

CBS Mornings / Naftali family

Under the release deal, at least 50 Hamas hostages, all women and children who have been held captive for 46 days, are expected to be exchanged for about 150 Palestinian women and teenagers held in Israeli detention centers. There will also be a temporary four-day cease-fire in Gaza, which could be extended.

Abigail’s cousin, Noa Naftali, said her family is “cautiously hopeful.”

“Every day, 46 days, since Oct. 7, has felt like Oct. 7 for us as we wonder and pray, and as our hearts are with our little cousin,” Noa Naftali said. 

Noa Naftali said Abigail is being held in Gaza with neighbors from the Kfar Aza kibbutz, where she, her parents and her siblings lived. Abigail’s mother was killed in front of her and her two older siblings, Noa Naftali said, adding that the toddler then ran outside to her father, who picked her up but was “gunned down while holding her.” 

Noa Naftali said Abigail’s older siblings, who are 6 and 10, survived the attack by locking themselves inside a closet for 14 hours. 

“We thought at the beginning that Abigail had died, but we later found out that she survived. Her father was able to shield her with his body,” Noa Naftali said. “She crawled out from underneath him and went over to the neighbors, who took her in, and they were also taken hostage — a mother, a 10-year-old, an 8-year old and a 4-year old who goes to preschool with Abigail.”

Friends and family of Israeli hostages upset deal didn’t happen sooner


“It took a couple of days for the kibbutz to be cleared, for us to understand, and for people to get in. And we learned an eyewitness had actually seen this mother with her three children and Abigail being led out of the kibbutz, out of their neighborhood, and then we did not find out any more information,” Liz Hirsh Naftali said. 

She added that the families have not heard much about the hostages since the attack on Oct. 7. 

“We know that they were taken, and the next thing we learned is that they’re hostages. We’re living in the dark,” Liz Hirsh Naftali said. “They are literally in the dark…And we in America, Israeli families, have very little information and are also in the dark.” 

If Abigail is indeed among those released, Noa Naftali said she will go to stay with her aunt, uncle and grandparents. Her siblings are already there, Noa Naftali said, and the family can provide “the love and support that they need after losing their parents.” Abigail’s return will also help her siblings heal, Liz Hirsh Naftali said. 

“She ran that house,” Liz Hirsh Naftali said. “We know that for her to come back, for her sister and her brother, is their one hope. This is one of the things that we just keep hearing, that they know exactly what happened on Oct. 7. Yes, they witnessed it. They are 6 and 10. They understand…The one piece that they can only hope that will come to give some sort of an ability for a closure and to move on is that Abigail comes back.” 

Even if Abigail is released, Liz Hirsh Naftali said, the family will continue to advocate for the release of all of the hostages being held. 

“We will continue to make every effort to bring back every hostage,” Liz Hirsh Naftali said. “This is something that we all need to be participating in, and we are committed to, so that when all this is done, all of these innocent civilians will be back home with their families.” 

“These are our grandparents and our aunts and uncles and our mothers and our fathers,” Noa Natfali added. “We need them all back home with their families.” 

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