The Palestinian militant group Hamas has released its first two hostages, an American woman and her daughter.
Judith Tai Raanan (59) and her daughter Natalie Shoshana Raanan (17) were safely back in Israel by late Friday evening after Egypt and Qatar negotiated with Hamas leaders to release the two Americans for “humanitarian reasons”.
The woman and her daughter were apparently on holiday in Israel when they were taken hostage during an attack at the Nahal Oz kibbutz near the border between Israel and Gaza on 7 October.
More than 200 hostages have been held in Gaza for the past two weeks after Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel on the day in question. According to the Israeli army, the “majority” of the hostages are still alive.
Joe Biden, the American president, was “delighted” about the two women’s release and has already contacted them by phone.
An Israeli envoy met the two women at the Gaza border on Friday and took them to a military base in central Israel where family awaited 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
Hamas says it is working with Qatar and Egypt to free its “civilian” hostages. It is now hoped that more releases may follow soon. However, hostages’ traumatized families believe more can be done to ensure their loved ones’ safe return.
“Absolutely nothing is being done,” says Assaf Shem Tov, whose cousin was taken hostage on October 7 at the Supernova music festival in the vicinity of Kibbutz Reim, near Gaza.
“We are asking humanity to intervene and bring back all those young boys, young girls, mothers, babies.”
The office of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, said the Israeli government would “use any means available to locate all the missing and bring home all those abducted”.
Mirjana Spoljaric, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, says the organization helped transport the freed Americans to Israel.
Spoljaric says their release provides a “bit of hope” for the families of other hostages and she appealed to all parties in the conflict to show “a minimum of humanity”.