Last Friday, the militant group Hamas released two U.S. hostages, a mother and a daughter from suburban Chicago, officials announced.
The freed hostages were identified as Judith and Natalie Raanan, who also hold Israeli citizenship, according to a spokesperson for the Israeli prime minister’s office.
The Raanans were transported from Gaza by the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Israeli military and security forces met the pair at the country’s border with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, mentioned the spokesperson for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office.
Hamas frees American mother and daughter as war with Israel nears third week
They were then taken to a military base to reunite with family members. That same night, in Israel, a photo of the Raanans was released by Netanyahu’s office.
“We’re extremely, extremely joyful, happy,” expressed Avi Zamir, Natalie’s uncle.
Zamir thanked President Biden and the State Department for their efforts to secure the hostages’ release, and mentioned,
“In a moment of joy for us as a family we are still remembering and acknowledging that there are still over 200 hostages and there are still families whose loved ones are still being held hostage and we will continue the struggle and effort to bring them back home safely, each and every single one of them.”
I just spoke with the two Americans released today after being held hostage by Hamas. I let them know that their government will fully support them as they recover and heal.
Jill and I will continue holding close in our hearts all the families of unaccounted for Americans. pic.twitter.com/oXk6gfrD8M
— President Biden (@POTUS) October 20, 2023
On Friday afternoon, President Biden had a phone conversation with the two former hostages.
“I let them know that their government will fully support them as they recover and heal,” Mr. Biden said in a tweet, sharing a photo of their call. “Jill and I will continue holding close in our hearts all the families of unaccounted for Americans.”
U.S. Hostages in Hamas’ Hands
In Washington, Secretary of State Antony Blinken reported that 10 additional Americans remain unaccounted for after Hamas carried out a brutal terror attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7, igniting a war.
“We know that some of them are being held hostage by Hamas along with an estimated 200 other hostages held in Gaza,” Blinken told reporters.
“They include men, women, young boys, young girls, elderly people, from many nations. Every single one of them should be released.”
Reason Behind Judith and Natalie Raanan’s Release
A message posted to a Hamas-affiliated Telegram channel stated the release was made for “humanitarian reasons.”
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When asked about a Hamas claim that all civilian hostages could be released if Israel’s airstrikes stop, Blinken said the hostages should be released unconditionally.
“I would not take anything that Hamas says at face value,” Blinken said. “Our position is clear: Every hostage needs to be released and needs to be released now.”
According to reports, the Raanans were visiting family in Israel, near the Gaza border, in a community called Nahal Oz, a kibbutz that was attacked by Hamas. Natalie Raanan had just graduated from Deerfield High School in north suburban Chicago.
Her uncle, Avi Zamir, relayed that Natalie had texted the family shortly after the bombing began on Oct. 7, saying, “We’re all fine, yes indeed. Mommy’s room that she was sleeping in got bombed, but we are now transferring to another guest house where there is a shelter.”
Their release comes nearly two weeks after the war began. Israel said its ongoing airstrikes hit more Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Friday, as it began evacuating a town near its northern border with Lebanon.
Friday’s airstrikes halted in the early afternoon, catching some individuals in the Palestinian territory off guard, prompting some to wonder if there was a ceasefire, according to reports from inside Gaza.
With information from CBS News