They were identified as Judith Tai Raanan and her daughter, Natalie Shoshana Raanan. Their release was achieved through diplomatic efforts, with Qatar playing a vital role in negotiating their freedom. U.S. President Joe Biden expressed his elation at the news and personally spoke with the two women after their release.
Hamas announced that it was collaborating with Qatar and Egypt to secure the release of more of its civilian hostages, suggesting that additional releases may be imminent.
The mother and daughter were greeted at the Gaza border by an Israeli envoy and transported to a military base in central Israel, where their families anxiously awaited their arrival. Judith and Natalie were taken from the Nahal Oz kibbutz near the Israel-Gaza border while they were reportedly on vacation in Israel.
The Raanan family, like many others with loved ones held captive, had launched an international campaign to bring attention to the situation and urge efforts to free the hostages.
Ben Raanan, Natalie's half-brother, shared his overwhelming sense of joy and gratitude upon learning of their release. He also expressed gratitude for the worldwide community's unwavering support and prayers for his sister.
Hamas disclosed that they released the two American citizens for humanitarian reasons after being approached by Qatar and Egypt.
The group said it was actively working with mediators to close the civilian hostage file, subject to appropriate security conditions, although it did not provide specifics regarding its demands.
Israel reported that Hamas gunmen abducted 203 people, including Israelis, dual nationals and foreigners, during the deadliest attacks in Israel's 75-year history. The attacks resulted in the deaths of at least 1,400 people, predominantly civilians, according to the Israeli government.
In response, Israel launched a relentless bombing campaign against the Gaza Strip, resulting in the deaths of at least 4,137 people, primarily civilians, according to the Hamas administration. (Related: Israel deletes video that supposedly proved the Islamic Jihad was responsible for hospital attack.)
The hostage crisis has become a central issue in Israel, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office vowing to use all available means to locate and bring home those who remain missing and kidnapped.
The International Committee of the Red Cross played a role in facilitating the transfer of the freed Americans to Israel. Mirjana Spoljaric, the organization's president, emphasized that their release provides a glimmer of hope for the families of other hostages and called on all parties involved in the conflict to demonstrate a minimum of humanity.
The release followed a visit by Biden to Israel, where he expressed solidarity and offered support in the wake of the attacks. "Our fellow citizens have endured a terrible ordeal these past 14 days, and I am overjoyed that they will soon be reunited with their family, who has been wracked with fear," Biden said.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for more immediate and unconditional releases, emphasizing that every single hostage should be freed. A team from the U.S. Embassy would visit the two freed women, although no information about their condition was provided.
Qatar, a major aid donor to Gaza, played a mediating role between Hamas and the U.S., leading to the release after days of continuous communication among all parties involved. A spokesman for the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that dialogue with both Israel and Hamas would continue in the hope of releasing all civilian hostages of every nationality, ultimately aiming to de-escalate the ongoing crisis and restore peace.
The Israeli military reported on Friday, Oct. 20, that most of those abducted were still alive, although some bodies had been discovered during incursions into Gaza. The military noted that over 20 of the hostages were minors, while between 10 and 20 were over the age of 60. Additionally, there are between 100 and 200 people considered missing since the Hamas attacks, as per the army's update.
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Watch the report about two American hostages released by Hamas.
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