2 American hostages held since Hamas attack on Israel released IDF Two hostages who were held by Hamas following a surprise attack on Israel have been released from captivity. The hostages, Judith Raanan, 59, and her daughter Natalie Raanan, 17, were handed over to the Red Cross and have now returned to Israel, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Their current health conditions are not immediately known. The Raanan family is from Illinois, and Ben Raanan, the brother of Natalie Raanan and son of Judith Raanan, mentioned that his mother and sister were visiting Israel to celebrate a relative’s birthday when they were taken hostage. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that the hostages were received at the Gaza Strip border and were being transported to a military base in the center of the country, where their family members awaited their arrival.
He added, “The Government of Israel, the IDF, and the entire security establishment will continue their diligent efforts to locate all the missing individuals and ensure the safe return of the abducted persons to their homes.”
In a statement, Hamas announced the release of the hostages, who are a mother and daughter, both American citizens. This was done “for humanitarian reasons and to demonstrate to the American people and the world that the claims made by President Biden and his administration are unfounded and without basis.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross facilitated the release of the hostages by safely transporting them from Gaza to Israel. ICRC President Mirjana Spoljaric expressed relief and hope, saying, “The release of these two hostages in Gaza today is a glimmer of hope. We are extremely relieved that, after two weeks of anguish, these two families can now be reunited.”
President Joe Biden, in a statement, expressed his immense joy upon hearing the news of the Ranas’ release and extended his gratitude to the governments of Qatar and Israel for their collaborative efforts in securing this release. He added, “Jill and I have held the families of unaccounted for Americans close to our hearts. As I assured them when we spoke last week, we are committed to bringing their loved ones back home, and we will not relent in our efforts.”
Later in the evening, the White House confirmed that the president had a phone conversation with the Ranas.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Friday that a team from the U.S. embassy would soon meet with the Ranas. He emphasized, “In the upcoming hours, they will receive all the necessary support and assistance. Naturally, we are eager to reunite them with their loved ones,” he stated to the press.
Jeff Woodke, who was released by Al Qaeda earlier this year after a lengthy six-and-a-half-year captivity, shared with ABC News the process the Ranas will undergo before returning home.
Initially, they will undergo a thorough medical evaluation, followed by a chance to connect with their families, according to Woodke. Afterward, they will be debriefed by intelligence officials before finally heading home. Woodke suggested that this debriefing might offer an opportunity for the Ranas to share their experiences, which could aid intelligence agents in gathering crucial information.
Hamas militants abducted hundreds of people during their violent incursion into southern Israel on October 7. Among the captives were young Israelis taken from an all-night music festival that marked the end of the Sukkot Jewish holiday. Tragically, 260 festivalgoers were killed by the militants, as reported by the Israeli rescue service Zaka. Following this incident, ten Americans were still unaccounted for, with some believed to be among the approximately 200 individuals held by Hamas. The hostages were released on October 20, following President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel. During his visit, President Biden called on the global community to demand access for the International Red Cross to visit the hostages.
Hamas, an organization based in the Palestinian territories, has been involved in negotiations with the Qatari government officials regarding the release of hostages, including women, children, and the elderly who are not Israeli citizens. In an October 16 statement, Hamas reported that it was holding approximately 200 hostages, while other Palestinian armed groups were also holding additional hostages. One such group, Islamic Jihad, claimed to be holding 30 hostages. Additionally, it’s worth noting that Hamas has previously asserted that it constructed an extensive tunnel network, often referred to as the “metro,” covering more than 300 miles under Gaza.
U.S. officials have also called on Israel to take measures to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza during military operations, including missions to search for hostages.
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner of the Israel Defense Forces informed ABC News on October 16 that specialized Israeli units had been conducting preliminary searches in Gaza to locate the hostages in preparation for an expected Israeli ground incursion into the Palestinian territory.
He mentioned that some of the hostages did not survive the forced journey into Gaza, and their bodies were discovered near the Israel-Gaza border.
For one Israeli mother who spoke with ABC News, the news of the hostages’ release came too late. Galit Dan, who held onto hope that her daughter, who had autism, and her elderly mother, both of whom were taken hostage, would be found alive, received the heartbreaking news on October 18 that the bodies of her mother and daughter had been found at the Gaza border.
During the hostage crisis, Hamas threatened to execute the captives one by one and record the killings if their demands were not met. However, Hamas provided limited information about the hostages while they were in captivity. Some of the hostages in Gaza were already dealing with pre-existing health issues, as reported by the Geneva-based organization, the Hostage and Missing Families Forum. These individuals included an elderly woman with Parkinson’s disease and a 60-year-old man with multiple sclerosis. Additionally, some hostages were believed to have suffered amputations and severe injuries during the Hamas attack. The situation was described as critical, with the hostages enduring extreme conditions as time passed. The last communication received from one of the hostages was a plea for help from her grandmother’s house as Hamas fighters closed in during the attack.
On October 16, a video surfaced featuring Mia Schem, a 21-year-old Israeli woman who had been taken hostage during a music festival near the Gaza border. The video depicted her lying on an upholstered chair, covered with a flowery blanket, while an individual in a white coat and latex gloves was shown tending to her injured right arm, which had visible stitches and a metal brace along her bicep. On October 17, in an interview with ABC News, Mia Schem’s mother, Keren, expressed her relief at seeing her daughter alive in the video. However, she described the family’s experience as “the worst nightmare every mother can have” and passionately appealed to the world to work towards the release of all the hostages.