Sisters aged 15 and 8 are reunited with their mother after being released from their Hamas hostage hell: Terror group free 17 more captives – including US girl, 4, who must now be told she’s an orphan
- Hamas has handed over 17 more hostages to the Red Cross
- The terror group still holds more than 200 hostages in the tunnels under Gaza
- READ: Israeli hostages reveal they ate rice and pita and slept on plastic seats
Two sisters who were abducted from their murdered father’s home and held hostage by Hamas have been reunited with their mother after 51 days of ‘despair’.
Ela Elyakim, 8, and Dafna Elyakim, 15, were kidnapped during the October 7 massacre after being forced to watch the terrorists question their father before his death.
Today the sisters were released and reunited with their mother Maayan Zin, who held them in a tight embrace after spending weeks living in ‘despair and hope, between pain and optimism’.
Ms Zin said her daughters, who were among the 17 hostages handed over to the Red Cross today, are now returning to a ‘new and complex situation’ and face a long period of recovery, The New York Times reported.
A total of thirteen Israelis, two Thai nationals and a person from Russia have now been freed by the militant group, including a young Israeli-American orphan who turned four while she was a hostage.
All but one of the 13 Israeli hostages have been taken to Israel, while one elderly Israeli woman was taken to the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, along with Thai and Russian nationals who were seen being driven in a Red Cross van.
Four-year-old Israeli-American Abigail Idan (pictured) is now an orphan, after her parents were killed during Hamas’ deadly October 7 incursion
Dafna Elyakim (pictured, right) and Ela Elyakim (pictured, left) were reunited with their mother Maayan Zin (pictured, centre)
Ms Zin tightly embraced Ela and Dafna shortly after their arrival in Israel today. The two girls were abducted from their father Noam Elyakim’s home in Nahal Oz kibbutz.
The day after the attack, Ms Zin saw a photo on WhatsApp of Dafna ‘sitting in pyjamas on a mattress in Gaza with the comment “In prayer clothes it would be better”.’
A video also emerged showing the pair sitting with Mr Elyakim, who was bleeding from his leg, his partner Dikla and her 17-year-old son Tomer as the terrorists questioned them.
The bodies of Mr Elyakim, Dikla and Tomer were found riddled with bullets in an empty lot. Ela and Dafna were taken hostage.
Before he was shot, Tomer had been told by militants to go door-to-door and speak in Hebrew to convince his neighbours to leave their shelters.
Today, after being reunited with her girls, Ms Zim told the New York Times: ‘After a long period in which I lived in terrible uncertainty, my daughters are finally with me.
‘These were 51 days in which I lived between despair and hope, between pain and optimism.’
She said the family will have a ‘period of recovery’ that she knows ‘will take time’.
Ela and Dafna also hold Hungarian nationality, according to media reports.
The other children, held by Hamas for the last seven weeks in Gaza’s underground tunnels, have been named as: Ofri Brodutch, 10, Yuval Brodutch, eight, Oriya Brodutch, four, Agam Goldstein, 17, Tal Goldstein, nine, Gal Goldstein, 11, and four-year-old Israeli-American Abigail Idan, whose parents were killed during Hamas’ deadly October 7 incursion.
Other hostages released today, as part of the Hamas-Israel deal that will see around 50 women and children held by the terror group released in exchange for a brief ceasefire, include: Hagar Brodutch, 39, Chen Goldstein, 48, Alma Avraham, 84, and Adrian Aviva Siegel, 63.
Tal Goldstein (pictured) was seen waving at Israeli citizens as he and the other hostages returned home
Adrian Aviva Siegel, 63, (pictured) wept as she returned home to Israel after spending seven weeks as a hostage
Yahel Shoham, three, (pictured) was seen holding a teddy bear at the medical facility she and the other hostages were taken to
Pictured, left to right: Hagar Brodutch and children Ofri, Yuval and Oriya, Roni Krivoi; middle: Chen Almog Goldstein and her children Agam, Gal and Tal; bottom: Abigail Idan, Elma Avraham, Aviva Siegel, and siblings Ela and Dafna Elyakim
The Israeli hostages were taken to Schneider Hospital in Petah Tikva near Tel Aviv, which was surrounded by Israeli citizens desperately waiting to see the hostages as they came back from captivity.
READ MORE: Heartwarming moment Emily Hand is reunited with her big sister and two dogs – after her father vowed to throw the ‘biggest party ever’ to mark the ninth birthday the Irish girl spent as a Hamas hostage
Qatar’s foreign ministry said 39 Palestinian hostages, made up of women and children, will be released in exchange for the release of the 13 Israeli civilians and the four other foreign nationals, though did not release any further details on how or when this would take place.
The world’s attention fell on four-year-old Israeli-American Abigail Idan, a young hostage who US president Joe Biden confirmed was safely in Israel.
‘Today [Abigail] is free, and Jilly and I, together with so many Americans, are praying for the fact that she is going to be alright,’ Biden said today at a press conference held in Nantucket, Massachusetts, referring to his wife Jill Biden.
He said he believed the staggered hostage release deal was working, though was cautious to be more effusive with his praise.
‘Nothing is guaranteed and nothing is being taken for granted but the proof that this is working…is in every smile, and every great tear we see on the faces of those families who are finally getting back together again.
Israeli citizens were seen weeping in joy upon seeing the return of the 13 hostages
Gal Goldstein (pictured) was seen waving, after being released with his mother, brother and sister
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‘The proof is little Abigail. More than 20 other children, 18 years and younger, have been release.
‘They’ve endured a terrible ordeal. They can now begin a long journey,’ he added.
Abigail, who turned four on Friday, was one of around a dozen Americans unaccounted for following Hamas’ incursion.
Appearing on ABC’s ‘This Week,’ National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said two women, one child and seven men were confirmed to have been taken by Hamas.
She was reportedly forced to crawl out from underneath her father’s body, after he was shot by a Hamas terrorist in their home at the Kfar Aza kibbutz during the October 7 incursion.
Her aunt, Liz Naftali, told NBC that both of Abigail’s parents, Roee and Smadar, were killed in their home, though it is not known if Abigail is aware of her parents’ fate.
Naftali and Abigail’s cousin Noa told MailOnline in a statement today: ‘We hoped and prayed today would come. There are no words to express our relief and gratitude that Abigail is safe and coming home.
Sharon Hertzman Avigdori (pictured, right) was seen embracing her son for the first time in seven weeks
The first exchange began on Friday, with a second round of exchanges taking place on Saturday night
‘Thank you to President Biden and his dedicated team; thank you to the Qatari government and other informal actors who are involved in securing Abigail’s release and reuniting other hostages with their loved ones.
‘Today’s release proves that it’s possible. We can get all hostages back home. We have to keep pushing.
‘We will continue to stand with the families of all the hostages still held captive, and we remain committed as ever to securing their safe and swift return.’
Abigail’s older brothers survived the massacre by hiding in a wardrobe for 14 hours and managed to survive but she was found wandering around covered in her father’s blood by neighbour Avihai Brodutch who took her to his house.
He later left the house to fight the terrorists and when he returned found her, his wife Hagar, 39, and their three children Ofri, 10, Yuval, eight and Uriah, four, had disappeared.
Yahel was one of the 13 hostages held by Hamas who were freed today under the temporary ceasefire deal
She was seen speaking to an IDF soldier while holding a teddy bear
The Brodutch family were also among those released on Sunday.
The family are expected to be reunited with their father Avihai Brodutch in the coming hours, as the bus carrying the hostages makes it way back to Israel.
Sisters Ella and Dafna Elyakim, eight and 15 respectively, were taken from their father’s home in Kibbutz Nir Oz, and had their identities revealed by Hamas terrorists after they live-streamed the attack on the 400-strong settlement.
The girls’ father, Noam Elyakim, and his partner, Dikla Arava, along with Dikla’s son, Tomer, were taken outside by the terrorists and tragically found dead near the Gaza border.
Their mother, Maayan, Zin, previously revealed she was worried about the psychological impact of the hostage situation on the young girls.
The four members of the Goldstein family, Chen, Agam, Gal and Tal, watched their father and husband Nadav, and the eldest daughter Yam get killed by Hamas terrorists who attacked their home in Kfar Aza.
The 13 Israeli hostages were taken to Schneider Hospital in Petah Tikva near Tel Aviv, which was surrounded by Israeli citizens desperately waiting to see the hostages as they came back from captivity
The 13 Israeli hostages have been taken to Israel to be looked at by medical examiners
Thai nationals were seen being driven in a Red Cross van across the Rafah border crossing with Egypt
The family previously lost five members in a suicide bombing in Halfa in 2003.
84-year-old Alma Avraham was taken from her home in Nir Oz after she couldn’t lock the heavy door to the safe room in her home.
She managed to say a few words to her adult son, Uri, as Hamas attacked the settlement.
South African-Israeli Adrian Aviva Siegel, 63, were forcibly taken from her home in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, where she and her husband lived for 40 years.
Her son, Elan, previously revealed that she worked closely with doctors to held sick children from both Israel and Palestine.
Also named and pictured was Russian-Israeli hostage Ron Krivoi, 25. He was kidnapped by Hamas at the Nova trance festival, where he was working as a sound engineer.
39 Palestinian hostages, made up of women and children, will be released in exchange for the release of the 13 Israeli civilians and the four other foreign nationals
The identities of the three Thai nationals freed today are not currently known.
READ MORE: Israeli dogs of war from notorious IDF canine unit awarded honours in recognition for their work uncovering Hamas booby traps
The total number of hostages released so far was brought to 54 while the number of Palestinian prisoners freed went up to 117, following today’s exchange.
Hamas this week agreed to free at least 50 hostages, all women and children, in exchange for Israeli freeing 150 Palestinian women and children held in prison.
The first exchange began on Friday, with a second round of exchanges taking place on Saturday night.
The initial exchange on Friday was delayed by several hours after Hamas claimed Israel had gone back on its word, causing many to fear that the deal, brokered by Qatar, would end up falling apart.
The Al-Qassam Brigades militant wing accused Israel of violating the agreed terms and demanded Israel commit to allowing aid trucks to enter northern Gaza for the first time in over a month.
Despite the accusations, Hamas revealed today that it is looking to extend the truce, which is set to expire on Monday, in a move that could see even more hostages be released.
Keren Munder, her son and her grandmother were among those released this week after they were abducted from their relatives’ home in Kibbutz Nir Oz. Pictured: Keren and her son Ohad
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In a statement, the terror group said it is ‘seeking to extend the truce after the end of the four days through seriously trying to increase the number of hostages released as stipulated in the humanitarian truce deal.’
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said today in a call with Joe Biden that he was open to this offer, but said the IDF would still seek to resume its offensive campaign in Gaza.
Speaking to Israeli security forces in the Gaza Strip before his call with Biden, he said: ‘We are making every effort to return our hostages, and eventually we will return them all.
‘We have three goals for this war: eliminating Hamas, returning all our hostages, and ensuring that Gaza does not become a threat to the State of Israel again.
‘We will continue until the end, until victory. Nothing will stop us, and we are convinced that we have the power, the strength, the will and the determination to achieve all the war’s goals, and we will.’
Earlier today family members of Israeli hostages described how their relatives ate rice and pita and slept on plastic seats after being abducted by Hamas.
Hostages who were returned to Israel and reunited with their families on Friday night told their loved ones of how they were treated.
Keren Munder, her son and her grandmother were among those released after they were abducted from their relatives’ home in Kibbutz Nir Oz.
Ms Munder told her cousin that the hostages mostly ate rice and pita and slept on rows of plastic seats – like the ones used in waiting rooms.
Crowds of Palestinians in the West Bank were seen celebrating upon hearing the news of the prisoners’ release
She also said they would knock on the door when they needed the bathroom, but sometimes had to wait an hour and a half before they could go.
Merav Raviv, cousin of Keren, said her aunt Ruthie and Keren’s son Ohad were also taken, but their elderly uncle Avraham was taken separately.
Little Ohad was filmed running into his father’s arms when he was released after being held as a hostage for 49 days.
The brave nine-year-old – a ‘bright kid who loves soccer, tennis, and solving the Rubik’s cube’ – was reunited with his father who tightly hugged him at a children’s hospital, marking the end of his horrific ordeal.
Ohad was seen enjoying his first meal, schnitzel and mash, as a freed hostage shortly before an Israeli football team met him.
He was also allowed to see his friends and eat ice cream with them for the first time in more than seven weeks.
Keren Munder, her son and her grandmother were among those released after they were abducted from their relatives’ home in Kibbutz Nir Oz. Ohad reunited with his friends
In the evening, he was joined by a group of his friends to celebrate, where they were treated to ice cream in honour of his ninth birthday which he spent as a hostage
Little Ohad eagerly tucked into his first meal after being freed. Credit: X/Aviva Klompas
Avi Zichri with his partner, Keren Munder, and their son, Ohad Munder-Zichri, on Sept. 1, 2023
The kidnapped family believed their frail uncle was murdered until Ms Raviv told them he had been taken hostage – but Keren’s brother Roi had been killed, she said.
READ MORE: Palestinians share footage of people swimming on the beach, shopping at markets and playing football in a rare glimpse of what life was like in the city before October 7
Mr Munder is not in good health, walks with a cane and has bad eyesight.
He was left behind by Hamas in the house as his wife, daughter and grandson were abducted.
Nine-year-old Irish girl Emily Hand was finally reunited with her devoted father after 50 days as a hostage of Hamas.
The youngster, who was initially feared to have been murdered by Hamas gunmen during their invasion of Israel, was filmed running into her father’s arms.
Last night, in a video statement Emily’s father Tom said: ‘Yesterday we got Emily back from the hands of the Gazan terrorists.
‘She’s lost a bit of weight from her face and body but generally doing better than we expected. ‘
He added that they were ‘still fighting’ to get Hila Rotem’s mother back Raya after she was split from her daughter.
Mr Hand said the terrorists had pledged to release families ‘together but they didn’t’.
He added: ‘We are in hospital and they are taking care of us and we would like to thank everyone that has helped and supported us through the last 50 days you have been great we couldn’t do it without you.
Nine-year-old Emily hand was freed this week after being held hostage by Hamas and was reunited with her father Thomas
Emily was one of 13 Israeli citizens to be freed from terror group Hamas this week and had her ninth birthday while in captivity. Pictured: Emily Hand near Kibbutz Be’eri, Israel
Emily was snatched in her pyjamas on October 7, in which some 240 captives were taken back into Gaza. She had her ninth birthday while in captivity.
On Saturday night, she joined 20 other hostages who were released by Hamas during a four-day pause in the conflict. Her release came after a delay of several hours when Hamas accused Israel of failing to meet the terms of the agreement.
Emily’s capture made headlines around the world after her emotional father, Thomas Hand, 63, initially said he hoped she had died in the October 7 invasion, rather than being in the hands of Hamas.
Since it was revealed she was in fact alive, Mr Hand has been campaigning tirelessly for her freedom.
Mr Hand later revealed she was ‘broken’ after her ordeal, but still in one piece. He also said he had been too scared to hug her tightly – but vowed to throw her the ‘biggest birthday party ever’.
More to follow.
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