Hamas has released two American hostages, Judith and Natalie Raanan. The mother-and-daughter pair were taken by the group on October 7, during the attack on Israel.
According to the Prime Minister’s office, the women, who were taken near the Gaza border, were on their way to a Central Israel military base, when they were kidnapped. Media outlets reported that the two are from a suburb in Illinois, Chicago.
This is the first time Hamas released hostages since their attack on Israel approximately two weeks ago.
On Friday, Hamas said they decided to release the pair for “humanitarian reasons” and to send a message to the United States, who had announced their support for Israel.
A spokesperson for Hamas – a designated terrorist group in many Western countries including the U.S. and Canada – Abu Ubaida said the two individuals were free “to prove to the U.S. that the claims that have been made are baseless and false.”
Biden thanked Israel and Qatar in a statement, for their help in the pair’s release. The Red Cross also facilitated their release by providing them with transportation from Gaza to Israel.
According to a spokesperson for the Qatari Foreign Ministry, the release occurred after “several days of continuous communication.” They also said they are working on the release of other hostages and emphasized that they are “not going to give up” on the other missing and abducted individuals.
Israel has announced they plan on wiping out Hamas, the terrorist group that rules Gaza, after they burst through and rampaged several towns, killing more than 1,400 people, most of whom were civilians. The Israeli military also revealed on Thursday that they have notified the families of more than 200 hostages taken by the terrorist group.
Since the attack by Hamas, Israel has retaliated with airstrikes. They have also ordered a mass evacuation and have prevented shipments of medical supplies, food, and fuel.
So far, more than 4,100 Palestinians have been killed in the crossfire, the majority of whom are civilians. According to the United Nations, over a million individuals have also lost their homes.
The hospitals in Gaza are also overwhelmed and are rationing their medical supplies, which are dwindling at an alarming rate. In wards without electricity, doctors continued to perform vital surgeries using the light from their mobile phones.
Currently, the only crossing not controlled by the Israeli army is through Rafah. However, the plan to get aid into Gaza remains uncertain.
At one point, over 200 trucks with more than 2,700 tonnes of aid were sent to a location near Rafah, however, they were not able to cross due to the damage on the streets on the Gaza side.
The U.N. Secretary General also traveled to the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt in an effort to get aid entering Gaza. At the border, he requested officials clear the way for the supplies, calling them a lifeline for the local residents.