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Hamas released two American hostages on Friday–a mother and her daughter–14 days after it launched a terrorist attack against Israel.
Judith, 59, and Natalie Raanan, 17, will soon be reunited with their loved ones.
In a statement, Hamas says it has released the American hostages for “humanitarian reasons” after talks with the Arab nation Quatar, according to an Israeli newspaper and sources who spoke with Western media outlets.
“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.
“We welcome their release. We share in their relief,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a press briefing Friday afternoon. However, he said 10 Americans, along with the roughly 200 other hostages, remain in Gaza.
“Every single one of them should be released.”
Hareetz, one of Israel’s largest newspapers, reported the Red Cross confirmed it has the hostages in their custody. Hamas reportedly released the hostages due to the mother’s health.
“In response to Qatari efforts, Al-Qassam Brigades released two American citizens (a mother and her daughter) for humanitarian reasons, and to prove to the American people and the world that the claims made by Biden and his fascist administration are false and baseless,” Hamas spokesperson Abu Obaida said on Friday.
Hamas releases hostages as rockets continue to launch
Meanwhile, Hamas rockets continue to be fired from Hamas into Israeli cities, and Israeli bombs continue to pound Gaza.
With gruesome reports of Israeli hostages being murdered by Hamas–such as 12-year-old Harry Potter fan Noya Dan–the news of the release of two American hostages is unlikely to garner much sympathy from the Israeli people or U.S. President Biden.
Notably, gruesome images of dead Palestinian babies continue to shock many around the world.
Nevertheless, the release of the American hostages signals the possibility for an end to the violence just two days after Pres. Biden made an historic trip to Israel during wartime. He expressed support for Israel and urged restraint when it comes to Palestinian civilians.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced he would allow small bits of humanitarian aid through the Rafah bordering crossing on Friday. It comes after Israel cut off food, water and electricity to the over 2 million Palestinians in Gaza for days.
Justifiable response or ethnic cleansing?
For many Israelis in the Middle East and across the world, the Oct. 7 massacre, which led to the deaths of nearly 1,400 Israelis, represents a traumatic reminder of the Jewish Holocaust.
Meanwhile, Palestinians trapped in the blockaded and beseiged Gaza strip see the Israeli military response–which has killed over 4,000 Palestinians–as the continuation of a decades-long system of apartheid and settler-colonialism.
While the release of two Hamas hostages comes as a welcoming sign for their families, nearly 200 hostages remain in Gaza, according to the Israeli government.
Notably, Israel has signaled that the return of its hostages safely isn’t its primary concern.
Hostages and civilian casualties will be secondary to destroying Hamas, Economy Minister Nir Barakat told ABC News, “even if it takes a year.”
Israel has controlled what goes in and out of Gaza, and restricted Palestinians from leaving Gaza, since it enacted a total blockade in 2007. The bombing of a Christian hospital in Gaza this week set off a new level of outrage among neighboring nations, raising fears that the conflict will expand beyond Israel-Palestine.
With constant reports of harassment, beatings and even killings of Palestinians by Israeli settlers and police officers in Palestine’s occupied West Bank, the bombardment of Gaza represents just one more layer of their collective trauma.
Israeli journalist condemns Israeli-Hamas war
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled from northern Gaza to the south after Netanyahu ordered a million of them to evacuate, in a scene reminiscent of the Nakba, when Palestinians were forced to become refugees to make room for the state of Israel.
The actions by Israel’s military force has sparked accusations that the nation is using the terrorist attack to grab land and expand its apartheid system.
Israeli journalist and author Amira Hass is a daughter of Jewish Holocaust survivors. in an interview with Democracy Now, she said Israel’s seige of Gaza and forced removal of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians is about more than responding to a terrorist attack.
“The right-wing wants wars in order exactly to accomplish these plans that are kind of subdued during normal times, and our normalcy is never normal,” Hass said.
Israeli Prime Minister has been accused of violating international law by targeting hospitals, schools, citizens and entire residential neighborhoods through “collective punishment.”
Israeli newspapers have classified Prime Minister Netanyahu’s administration as the most far-right in the nation’s history. For instance, Hareetz said he “bears responsibility” for the Oct. 7 attack in a jaw-dropping editorial.
“The prime minister, who has prided himself on his vast political experience and irreplaceable wisdom in security matters, completely failed to identify the dangers he was consciously leading Israel into when establishing a government of annexation and dispossession, when appointing Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir to key positions, while embracing a foreign policy that openly ignored the existence and rights of Palestinians.Haaretz editorial, October 8, 2023.
Humanitarian aid crisis continues as Hamas releases two of 150+ hostages
As of Friday night Tel-aviv time, the United Nations Secretary General António Guterrez remains on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing to ensure the aid would be allowed through.
Pres. Biden said he expects aid to be allowed through within 24-48 hours. Yet, with water, food and electricity hard to come by inside Gaza, each hour represents life or death for Palestinians.
It’s unclear whether the release of Hamas hostages will accelerate the delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza through the Rafah border crossing. Biden said the delay was due to the need to repave roads that had been bombed numerous times.
“The highway had to be repaved because it was in very bad shape, and I believe that, within the next 24-48 hours, the first 20 trucks will come across with aid, Biden said.”
The destruction of the road comes after rocket attacks killed Palestinian civilians fleeing to the border that Israeli ordered them to cross. Israel denied responsibility for the blast.
Notably, despite the release of Hamas hostages, no agreement has been made to rescue American citizens trapped in Gaza.
“We feel abandoned to fight on our own for our safety and the safety of our son,” Abood Okal, a resident from Massachusetts, told CNN.
“Especially since President Biden didn’t seem to influence any of the parties to secure a safe passage for the hundreds of Americans stranded in Gaza or to even acknowledge our presence and the need to get us to safety.”