My 4-year-old great-niece was released by Hamas. When will the other hostages be freed?

by Liz Hirsh Naftali

There are 107 people, including seven Americans, still held hostage by Hamas since the brutal terrorist attack in Israel on Oct. 7. My great-niece, 4-year-old Abigail Mor Edan, was one of them. For 50 days, we did not know where she was, if she was alive, or if she was getting medical help or even food. Every minute that passed, we spent in complete agony.

Abigail was taken hostage from her home in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, after witnessing the murder of her mother and her father, who was carrying Abigail in his arms as Hamas terrorists gunned him down. Abigail crawled out from under her father’s bloody body and ran to shelter with her neighbors — a mother and her own three children — who were all then taken hostage by Hamas.

For seven weeks, we lived in anguish, knowing nothing about Abigail’s whereabouts, health or safety. I cried day and night as I prayed for her return. It is still hard to find the words to express our relief of having Abigail released on Nov. 26, two days after her fourth birthday.

I pray the families of every remaining hostage will soon know that same joy. Every day for these families is a nightmare. Every day they spend in the dark, forced to consider the worst fates for their daughters, sons, mother, fathers and grandparents still held in Gaza.

All we know is that the remaining hostages are sick and gravely injured. They have gunshot wounds, broken bones, limbs blown off, and more — injuries inflicted by Hamas over two months ago. Every day that passes, they are being tortured physically and mentally, and they are starving.

If we are going to save their lives, there is no time to waste. Hamas has threatened to execute all the remaining hostages. Every second they remain in captivity, they are in mortal danger. The time to act is now.

The release of Abigail and more than 100 other hostages is proof that bringing home all people still alive in captivity is possible. We must use every tool at our disposal to make that happen again.

I’m heartened that Israel has taken steps to restart negotiations with Hamas and hope that Israel, as well as Qatar, Egypt, and other regional partners at the table, continue to demand the release of the remaining hostages with urgency.

The families of the American hostages met with President Biden and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken this month, in addition to C.I.A. Director William Burns. We asked them to pull every lever to bring home the remaining hostages. We cannot wait any longer. Our loved ones cannot wait any longer.

Last week, Director Burns met with Israeli and Qatari officials to discuss the new deal to free the hostages. We’re hopeful such meetings and continuing efforts by the Biden administration will yield results soon. President Biden knows that there is no time left to waste.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross must demand immediate, unfettered access to the 107 hostages still in captivity. Many need life-saving medical attention, and it is imperative that the ICRC do everything they can to provide aid so that the hostages will survive.

As our family celebrates Abigail’s return, we continue to mourn the loss of her parents and so many others from the community of Kfar Aza. We hold in our hearts, too, the families living in the agonizing limbo we experienced, waiting for word of their loved ones held in captivity and praying for their safe return. After living this terror myself for nearly two months, I consider every single one of the hostages to be part of my family, and I will not rest until I see them all returned safely.

The holidays this month — Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa — are about hope, light and miracles. Let all of us, Americans and members of the international community alike, look to Abigail’s return as a source of hope as we pray for a season of miracles and push for the safe return of every person stolen from us on Oct. 7.

Liz Hirsh Naftali, a Los Angeles resident, is the great-aunt of Abigail Mor Edan.