Stop the fighting, then we can move forward, relative of former Gaza hostage tells forum

Liz Hirsh Naftali's niece, Abigail Mor Edan, was among dozens released by Hamas last November

A poster in Tel Aviv calls for the release of a hostage taken by Hamas militants in the October 7 attack. Reuters
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International efforts must be increased to ensure the safe release of all hostages in Gaza, the relative of an Israeli-American girl previously held in the besieged enclave has told a forum in Doha.

Liz Hirsh Naftali addressed the Global Security Forum in Doha and praised the efforts of the US and Qatar to secure the release of her niece Abigail Mor Edan, who turned four while held captive by Hamas. Both of her parents were shot and she was taken hostage during the October 7 attack on Israel.

Abigail Mor Edan was among dozens of hostages released by the militant group in November last year.

Ms Naftali said she was "in great appreciation" for the efforts of US President Joe Biden and his administration, as well as senior Qatari officials including Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, "for the mediation and the work they did".

The US, Qatar and Egypt have acted as mediators in efforts to secure a truce deal that would ensure the return of all hostages from Gaza in exchange for Palestinian detainees in Israel.

"It is clear to me that their diplomacy, their efforts, is what brought Abigail and 109 women and children home at the end of November 2023," Ms Naftali said.

Ms Naftali was in Israel when Hamas militants launched an attack that killed 1,200 people, with about 240 kidnapped. Israel's bombardment of Gaza has since killed more than 35,600 people, the enclave's health authorities said.

Ms Naftali urged world leaders to press to secure the release of all remaining hostages. "Bring these hostages home. You stop the fighting, you help the people in Gaza, and then we can move forward," she added.

Roger Carstens, US special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, said at the forum that his country remained committed to the release of Israeli and American hostages held by Hamas.

Speaking during a session at the forum, Mr Carstens commended the role of Qatar in mediating the release of hostages. The country is “wonderful, doing the job of mediating and bringing people to the table”, he said.

When asked about Israel continuing to launch attacks on Gaza while negotiations are carried out to seek the release of hostages, Mr Carstens said: “I have to deal with the cards dealt to me. We have to deal with realities."

Updated: May 21, 2024, 3:18 PM