2023October 2023

Hamas Releases Two American Hostages

Brianna Millican
Staff Writer

Two American hostages kidnapped in Hamas’s initial attack on Israel were released from Hamas captivity on October 20, states CNN. Judith Tai Raanan, 59, and her daughter, Natalie Raanan, 17, had been traveling since September to celebrate Natalie’s high school graduation, her grandmother’s 85th birthday, and the Jewish holidays, when they were abducted on October 7 in Nahal Oz, Reuters says.

Judith and Natalie spent two weeks under Hamas captivity after they were abducted at gunpoint by Hamas militants in Nahal Oz during a surprise attack. Reuters adds that Judith and Natalie were handed over to Israeli forces at the Gaza Strip border last Friday, becoming the first hostages whose release by Hamas has been confirmed by both sides. The New York Times reported that the mother and daughter were released on humanitarian grounds because Judith was suffering from health issues. 

Judith and Natalie were reunited with their loved ones at an Israeli base the day they were released, continued CNN. Natalie’s father, Uri Raanan, explained the relief and happiness he felt knowing his family was safe. “I haven’t been sleeping for two weeks,” he said. “Tonight, I’m going to sleep good.”

Judith’s friends have also commented on the miraculous release of her and her daughter. Yehudis Hecht, wife of Rabbi Meir Hecht, whose synagogue Judith attends, said, “We are beyond grateful, and we pray that they have quick healing from all that they’ve endured.” 

U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Judith and Natalie following their release, added CNN. President Biden stated how happy he was that they were safe and hoped they were “not only feeling good, but in good health as well.” 

American and British officials are continuously working with Qatar to secure the release of their own hostages, as well as the release of non-British and non-American nationals. Qatari officials have become the middleman between Hamas and U.S. officials’ negotiations regarding the release of the remaining American hostages. A senior official involved in the negotiations said that leaders want a pause in Israeli strikes in the Gaza Strip so they can gather exact information about all the hostages, stated The New York Times. Hamas has also agreed in principle to release all non-Israeli national hostages, but the timing of such actions is unclear. 

According to NPR, the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) also played an important part in the release of Judith and Natalie Raanan. The Raanans were first handed over to the ICRC upon their release and then transported to an Israeli medical base. The ICRC is continuing to push for the release of all Hamas hostages and put out a statement urging both sides to “maintain a minimum of humanity” during the war. 

More than 1,400 people in Israel and more than 4,000 people in the Gaza Strip have been killed since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, reports The Associated Press. The death toll is expected to rise, as Israel carries out more airstrikes in Gaza and Palestinian militants launch unyielding rocket attacks into Israel. Vital medical resources have also become dangerously low in supply in Gaza, leaving Palestinian hospitals scrambling to provide care for critical patients and people injured in airstrikes. 

The U.S. government is dedicated to securing the release of the hostages, especially the 10 remaining that are American. There have been claims of ongoing discussions for the release of more hostages, Reuters reports. The release of Judith and Natalie Raanan has brought hope to family and friends whose loved ones are still held captive by Hamas that they will soon be safely returned. 

Image courtesy of New York Times, U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, via Associated Press

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