21 Oct 2023

Israel-Palestine War: Hamas says it is working with Qatar and Egypt to free civilian hostages after release of 2 US women

Gaza City: The Israel Defense Forces have confirmed that two American hostages have been released by Hamas. Both have been released amid the ongoing war between Israel and Palestine.

Gaza's Hamas rulers released two Americans on Friday among some 200 hostages they abducted in October 7 attacks in Israel and hinted that more could follow.

Hamas said that after being approached by Qatar and Egypt, Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades released two American citizens for humanitarian reasons.

Qatar had mediated between Hamas and US 

Qatar is a major donor of aid to Gaza and two Hamas leaders are based in the Gulf state. A Qatari foreign ministry spokesman said the country had mediated between Hamas and the United States and that the release followed many days of continuous communication between all the parties involved.

Hamas said it was working with Qatar and Egypt to free its "civilian" hostages, in a sign that more releases could follow.

"We will continue our dialogue with both the Israelis and Hamas, and we hope these efforts will lead to the release of all civilian hostages from every nationality, with the ultimate aim of de-escalating the current crisis and restoring peace," said the spokesman, Majid al-Ansari.

We are working with all mediators: Gaza's rulers

Gaza's Islamist rulers said they were working with all mediators to implement the movement's decision to close the civilian (hostage) file if appropriate security conditions allow. It gave no details of its demands.

The hostages have become a major issue in Israel, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said the government would use any means available to locate all those missing and bring home all the kidnapped.

According to the Israeli government, released women Judith Tai Raanan and her daughter Natalie Shoshana Raanan were back in Israel late Friday.

Biden said he was overjoyed

No details were given on their condition, but US President Joe Biden said he was "overjoyed" at the news. Biden spoke by phone to the two women after they were freed.

“I spoke with two Americans who were released today while being held hostage by Hamas. Let me tell you that the government will fully support them to recover from this,” US President Joe Biden said. It is reported that the support of the Qatari government is behind this. Recently, Biden visited Israel.

The released women were met at the Gaza border by an Israeli envoy and taken to a military base in central Israel "where their families are waiting to meet them".

The American mother and daughter were taken hostage from the Nahal Oz kibbutz near the Israel-Gaza border on October 7. They were reportedly on holiday in Israel at the time.

The Ranaan family, like those of many of the hostages, had launched an international campaign to press for efforts to bring them out of Gaza.

Ben Raanan, Natalie's half-brother expressed the "overwhelming sense of joy... and gratitude" at the news of their release.

He also thanked the "community around the world who have really put my sister at the forefront of their thoughts, of their prayers".

Israel says 203 people -- Israelis, dual nationals and foreigners -- were abducted by Hamas gunmen when they launched the deadliest attacks in Israel's 75-year history. At least 1,400 people were killed, mostly civilians, according to the government.

Israel has responded with a relentless bombing campaign against the Gaza Strip that has left at least 4,137 people dead, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas administration.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it had helped transport the freed Americans to Israel. 

Hope for families of other hostages

Committee president Mirjana Spoljaric said their release provided a "sliver of hope" for the families of other hostages and called on all sides in the conflict to show "a minimum of humanity".

The release came two days after Biden made a solidarity visit to Israel to offer support over the attack.

"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," he said in a statement.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for more releases "immediately and unconditionally". 

Blinken said a team from the US Embassy would visit the two freed women, but offered no information about their condition

The Israeli military said earlier Friday that most of those abducted to Gaza were still alive even though some dead bodies have been found on incursions into Gaza.

The military said more than 20 hostages were minors, while between 10 and 20 were over the age of 60.

There are also between 100 and 200 people considered missing since the Hamas attacks, the army added.

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