Israel-Gaza war: Hamas releases two American hostages

Hamas armed wing spokesman Abu Ubaida said Friday that the group has released two American hostages – a mother and her daughter – “for humanitarian reasons,” Reuters reported.

According to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, Israeli army and security forces received the hostages, Judith and Natalie Raanan, on the Gaza border and they were on their way to a military base in central Israel to meet their family members.

A team from the US Embassy in Israel will shortly see the two Americans who were freed by Hamas, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

He said there are still 10 Americans who remain unaccounted for after Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7.

“We know that some of them are being held hostage by Hamas,” Blinken told a briefing for reporters.

All hostages, Blinken said, “should be released immediately and unconditionally.”

Israeli media had earlier said Hamas handed the mother and daughter to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Israel responded to the hostage crisis and the Oct. 7 rampage by Hamas gunmen which killed 1,400 Israelis by pounding Gaza with airstrikes, killing more than 4,000 people, and has said it will act to free the hostages while wiping out Hamas.

It amassed tanks and troops near the perimeter of the enclave for an expected ground invasion, calling on Palestinians to evacuate the north of Gaza, where it says Hamas is dug in.

Israel has also said that there will be no end to its full blockade of the enclave unless Israeli hostages are freed.

Hamas says it has 200 hostages and that 50 more are held by other armed groups in the enclave. It said more than 20 hostages have been killed by Israeli airstrikes, but has not given any further details.

Those held include women, children, the elderly and people from other countries which have been working for their release, along with some Israeli soldiers.

Hamas’ armed wing said on Oct. 16 that kidnapped non-Israelis were “guests” who would be released “when circumstances on the ground allow.”

Hamas has suggested the hostages could be swapped for 6,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons but Israel is unlikely to agree to that while it is on a war footing.

US statement

The United States has secured the release of two Americans taken hostage by Palestinian militant group Hamas, President Joe Biden confirmed in a statement on Friday.

“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 the US President.

Biden also thanked Qatar and Israel for their partnership in securing the duo’s release.

“I thank the government of Qatar and the government of Israel for their partnership in this work. Jill and I have been holding close in our hearts all the families of unaccounted for Americans,” he said.

“As president, I have no higher priority than the safety of Americans held hostage around the world,” added Biden.

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