Wife of NC native released by Hamas as part of humanitarian ceasefire agreement

For nearly two months, the grandchildren of a North Carolina native have asked their parents when Hamas would release their grandparents, their daughter said on social media.

Keith Siegel, a native of Chapel Hill, and his wife, Adrienne “Aviva” Siegel, were captured by the Palestinian militant group, considered a terrorist organization by the United States, when Hamas brutally attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 and taking more than 240 people hostage.

On Sunday, Sen. Ted Budd, a Republican from North Carolina, announced that Aviva Siegel was finally released during a temporary humanitarian ceasefire, though her husband remains captive.

“We are pleased that some hostages have been released and are now home with their loved ones,” Budd said in a news release. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to secure that freedom for North Carolina native Keith Siegel, Omer Neutra and all hostages illegally held by Hamas terrorists.”

Neutra, the grandson of Holocaust survivors, grew up on Long Island with dual citizenship and eventually joined the Israeli military, CBS News reported.

Attack on the kibbutz

McClatchy could not reach any of the Siegels’ family members a day later.

But Shir Siegel, the couple’s daughter, talked about her parents and their kidnapping in a video posted on social media and translated into English. She had been with her parents just one day prior.

She explained that her parents lived in the kibbutz, Kfar Aza, that had been attacked by Hamas. According to Time magazine, Kfar Aza was a community of 900 people, but Hamas killed around 60 and at least 19 are missing.

The Siegels have four adult children and five grandchildren.

Shir Siegel said her parents’ neighbor told the family that militants had broken into his own house, but he managed to scare them away. Shir Siegel said she knew if they went into her parents’ house it would be a different story.

“My parents are sensitive people,” Shir Siegel said. “And I knew if terrorists went into our house, they took my parents with them.”

She imagined her parents complying as Hamas militants told them to put their hands up and walk out of the house.

However, days later their children received a call from army intelligence. Their parents had been on the road when Hamas took them hostage.

Shir Siegel said she and her siblings spent days trying to figure out how to tell the grandchildren what had happened. Finally they sat them in a circle, held hands and explained.

“Wow, it was heartbreaking,” Shir Siegel said.

Ceasefire and release

In the video she pleaded for help from anyone in the world who had any say in bringing her parents home.

Last week offered some hope.

After weeks of war in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, which health authorities in Gaza say has killed more than 13,000 Palestinians, both sides agreed to a four-day ceasefire, in which Hamas would release some of the hostages and humanitarian aid would be provided to Palestinians.

Among those hostages was 4-year-old Avigail Mor Idan, who holds dual citizenship in Israel and the United States. Avigail was released with Aviva Siegel on Sunday.

“Avigail was among 13 hostages released today from Gaza under the brokered and sustained, though intensive, U.S. diplomacy,” President Joe Biden told reporters Sunday, in a news conference from Massachusetts. “She is now safely in Israel and we continue to press and expect for additional Americans to be released as well.”

Biden promised that his administration will not stop working until every hostage is returned to their loved ones.

On Monday afternoon, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby announced during a briefing at the White House that the “humanitarian pause” would be extended an extra two days and said he “welcomes the announcement.”

The agreements include the release of 20 more women and children, and Kirby said he hopes the pause is extended longer in order to release additional hostages.