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Two Americans Held Hostage By Hamas During The Attack On Israel Are Freed

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The Israeli prime minister’s office said on Friday that two American captives who were taken prisoner by the terrorist organization Hamas during its raid on Israel earlier this month have been freed.

According to family members who spoke to the media, Judith Raanan, 59, and Natalie Raanan, 17, an Illinois mother and daughter, had been visiting relatives in Israel when they were kidnapped by Hamas on October 7.

“Our fellow citizens have endured a terrible ordeal these past 14 days, and I am overjoyed that they will soon be reunited with their family, who has been wracked with fear,” said President Biden in a statement.

In a phone conversation with Biden that was made public by the White House on Saturday, the two stated their health.

The older Raanan is an operating room nurse who goes by Yehudit in Hebrew. Raanan’s sister Saray Cohen told the Israeli national network Kan that her daughter had just graduated from high school and was taking a year off to travel.

The two were met by the Israeli military at the Gaza Strip‘s border after being helped out of Gaza by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the prime minister’s office said. “At the moment, they are on their way to a meeting point at a military base in the center of their country, where their family members are waiting for them,” added the statement.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged to State Department reporters that two Americans are in Israel with Israeli police and that a team from the U.S. Embassy will visit with them shortly. Blinken continued, saying that he was still unsure of the mother and daughter’s circumstances.

“Over the coming hours, they’ll receive any support and assistance they need, and of course, we are very anxious to be able to reunite them with their loved ones,” Blinken said.

The mother and daughter had traveled to Israel together to celebrate Judith Raanan’s mother’s 85th birthday, Cohen said in the Kan video, which was posted earlier Friday. “We have no idea whatsoever what is their situation, where they’re being held. We just want them to come back to us,” she added.

On October 7, as the Raanans were lodging in a guesthouse in southern Israel, a wave of Hamas militants broke through the Gaza border and into neighboring Israeli villages. According to Israeli sources, the attack claimed the lives of over 1,400 people, hundreds of them at a music festival and in their homes.

Nahal Oz, a peaceful, little kibbutz located about half a mile from the Gaza border, was one of the towns targeted. Cohen said that even before the conflict started that morning, family members had been in communication with the Raanans, who were in Nahal Oz. According to the family, the two were hiding in a safe room, and they were sending updates to them over WhatsApp for hours.

However, Cohen stated that the texts ceased shortly after midday. “After two hours or so of silence, we started to feel uneasy.”

US, Israel, Qatar, and Hamas had negotiations that led to the agreement to free the Raanans.

The Israeli military believes that some 200 hostages, including numerous youngsters, are still in the hands of Hamas. Blinken also reports that ten Americans are still missing.

“We have not ceased our efforts to secure the release of those who are still being held,” Biden said.

Israeli officials have declared that they will not remove the siege on Gaza, which has shut off gasoline, food, water, and electricity from the region that is home to over two million Palestinians until all captives are freed.

According to a statement, Hamas will keep collaborating with mediators like Egypt and Qatar to free all people under what it described as “appropriate security conditions.”

“The news that Judith and Natalie have been released gives us overwhelming gratitude to God that our prayers are being heard,” Rabbi Meir Hecht of Chabad of Evanston, who is close to the family, told NPR.

“At the same time, we’re so deeply concerned for the 200-plus other hostages that are still in the hands of Hamas terrorists, and we continue to pray, and ask everyone to pray, for their immediate release,” he said.

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