Hamas Frees Two US Civilians Among Hundreds Held Hostage in Gaza

Hamas Frees Two US Hostages from Hundreds Held in Gaza

The militant Palestinian group Hamas has released two U.S. citizens, 59-year-old Judith Raanan and her 17-year-old daughter Natalie, from captivity in Gaza.

This comes amid ongoing mediation efforts to resolve the crisis after Hamas seized over 200 hostages in deadly October raids into Israel.

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Israel confirmed the Raanans, who were visiting the country, had been freed and reunited with eager family members. Hamas cited humanitarian reasons, saying talks with Egypt and Qatar secured the Americans’ release.

Hamas indicated further civilian hostage releases could follow if conditions allow. Freeing the Raanans provides some hope, but much work remains to address the devastating conflict that has killed thousands and displaced countless more.

The women were kidnapped from Nahal Oz in southern Israel on October 7. Israel said over 200 people were taken hostage overall when Hamas militants launched their incursion, the deadliest attacks in Israel’s history.

Their Chicago family and leaders worldwide had urgently pressed for the Raanans’ release. Natalie’s brother voiced overwhelming gratitude, while still calling for the freedom of all remaining captives.

Israel has pounded Gaza with airstrikes in response to the raids. Gaza officials say thousands of civilians have died. Resolving the hostage crisis is considered vital to easing tensions.

The U.S., Israel and others have thanked Qatar for mediating the release and continue urging Hamas to free all civilians immediately and unconditionally.

Freeing the traumatized Americans after unthinkable anguish for their family is an essential first step. But the complex path to a sustainable ceasefire and justice remains long.