People participate during a large pro-Palestine protest due to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 20 October 2023. EFE-EPA/ERIK S. LESSER

Family of 2 Americans released by Hamas: ‘They are well and happy’

Washington, Oct 20 (EFE).- A few hours after learning of Hamas’ decision to release two American citizens, Judith and Natalie Raanan, mother and daughter, the latter’s father, Uri Raanan, said that they are looking forward to returning home.

“I spoke with my daughter earlier today. She sounds very good, she looks very good. She was very happy. And she’s waiting to come home,” he said at a press conference from Bannockburn, the municipality in the state of Illinois where they reside.

His ex-wife, he said, has “a small scratch on her hand” but “it’s nothing, she’s fine.”

The spokesman for the Al Qasam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, announced Friday the release of the two American hostages – who were in Israel visiting relatives – for “humanitarian reasons,” after mediation by Qatar.

He said they have adopted this gesture to “demonstrate to the American people and the world that the claims made by (United States President Joe) Biden and his fascist Administration are false and baseless.”

After being released, they underwent medical check-ups and received a phone call from President Biden. The US embassy in Jerusalem published a photograph through its X (formerly Twitter) social media profile in which the two women appear talking on the phone with the president, with smiling faces.

Also on X, Biden himself published a photograph in which he appears speaking on the phone, with a big smile, from the Oval Office.

“I just spoke with the two Americans released today after being held hostage by Hamas. I let them know that their government will fully support them as they recover and heal. (First lady) Jill and I will continue holding close in our hearts all the families of unaccounted for Americans,” the president wrote.

Uri Raanan said his daughter has not told him anything about how the two weeks she has been held since Hamas militants orchestrated a wave of surprise attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip and kidnapped more than 200 people of various nationalities. An event that caused Israel to declare war.

People participate during a large pro-Palestine protest due to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 20 October 2023. EFE-EPA/ERIK S. LESSER

According to Raanan, the two women are expected to be back in the US next week. “Hopefully I’ll be able to see them next week” and celebrate Natalie’s 18th birthday on Tuesday.

In the conversation with the media, Raanan said he first learned of the release when he began receiving photographs from Israeli television channels on his phone and that shortly after the Israel Defense Forces called him saying they were going to reunite with his daughter and his mother.

Through a statement, Biden said he celebrated the release and added that he would not stop until the rest of the hostages are freed.

“From the earliest moments of this attack, we have been working around-the-clock to free American citizens who were taken hostage by Hamas. We will not stop until we secure the release of those who are still being held,” he wrote.

The release occurred two days after Biden visited Israel to demonstrate the country’s “unwavering” support for him and defend the right of Israelis to defend themselves.

In addition, he compared Hamas to the terrorist group Islamic State and added that the “atrocities” committed by the Palestinian organization make the latter seem more rational.

The exact number of hostages with US passports held by Islamists in Gaza is unknown. There are currently 13 Americans missing and 30 dead after the attack killed more than 1,400 on Israeli soil.

The Palestinian group also kidnapped 250 hostages – 200 it says are in its hands and 50 in the hands of other Palestinian militias – although the Israeli Army has reduced that number to 203. EFE