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American mother and daughter taken hostage by Hamas have been released

Posted at 12:26 PM, Oct 20, 2023

JERUSALEM — Hamas released two American hostages, Judith Tai Raanan and her 17-year-old daughter, Natali Raanan, on Friday after they abducted around 200 people from Israel in a deadly attack on October 7.

The US citizens were handed over at the border with Gaza and are currently on their way to an Israeli military base to be reunited with family, according to the office for Israel’s prime minister.

The Raanans are from Chicago and had been visiting relatives in Nahal Oz, a farming community in southern Israel, when they were taken, according to their family.

The two were handed over to the Red Cross and are “on their way out,” a source familiar with negotiations for their release said earlier on Friday.

They are being released on “humanitarian grounds” because the mother is in poor health, the same source said. The release was the result of negotiations between Qatar and Hamas.

Israel has since pummeled Gaza with relentless airstrikes and imposed a complete blockade, sparking a catastrophic humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian enclave.

In a statement, Hamas spokesperson Abu Obaida said: “In response to Qatari efforts, Al-Qassam Brigades released two American citizens (a mother and her daughter) for humanitarian reasons, and to prove to the American people and the world that the claims made by Biden and his fascist administration are false and baseless.”

The White House has not commented. The Israeli prime minister’s office has not commented. CNN has reached out to the Red Cross. The United Nations warned on Friday the taking of hostages is prohibited by international law.

The pending release of the two American hostages is “hopefully the start of more to come,” a diplomatic source with knowledge of the arrangements told CNN.

The source confirmed that the hostages were with the Red Cross and indicated no exchanges were part of their release.

Israel had previously told the US government that some Americans held hostage by Hamas are known to be alive, a US official told CNN.

It is not clear whether the Israelis were referring only to the two currently being released or had information on more hostages as well. US officials have not said whether they believe any of the American hostages are dead and have previously noted that all hostages are assumed alive.

News of the release came after US President Joe Biden, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak flocked to Israel in recent days, amid growing pressure on world leaders to secure the release of the hostages.

Hamas killed more than 1,400 people during the October 7 attack in Israel earlier this month, including civilians and soldiers, according to Israeli authorities. It was the most deadly attack by militants in Israel’s 75-year history and revealed a staggering intelligence failure by the country’s security forces.

Israeli airstrikes in Gaza have since killed at least 3,785 people, including 1,524 children, 1,000 women and 120 elderly people, according to the Palestinian health ministry. Almost 12,500 have been injured.

Amnesty International has said Israel’s “collective punishment” of Palestinian civilians for Hamas’ attack amounts to a war crime.

A number of foreign nationals were also kidnapped by Hamas, including people from the US, Mexico, Brazil and Thailand.

Information about the status, location and identity of all the hostages remains scarce. Some have been identified by families who recognize them from online videos, sparking desperate pleads for their return.

Representatives of the hostages have welcomed the release of the two Americans.

“The families’ headquarters welcomes the release of hostages from Hamas captivity,” the Hostages and Missing Families Forum said in a statement to CNN.

“We call on world leaders and the international community to exert their full power in order to act for the release of all the hostages and missing.”

This story is developing and being updated.