Updated Oct 20, 2023 - World

Hamas releases 2 American hostages held in Gaza

Judith and Natalie Raanan. Photo: Raanan Family via AP

Hamas on Friday released two U.S. citizens it was holding hostage in Gaza, the Israeli Prime Minister's Office confirmed.

The big picture: Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S., said it released a mother and her teenage daughter on humanitarian grounds following Qatar mediation efforts. Hamas took roughly 200 people hostage during its Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel, according to Israeli officials.

  • The two Americans, Judith and Natalie Raanan from Evanston, Ill., crossed into Israel from Gaza at about 9:30pm local time, the Israeli Prime Minister's Office said.
  • It added that they were being transferred to an IDF base in central Israel where their family members would meet them.

State of play: Securing the release of hostages has been a top priority for both the U.S. and Israeli governments.

  • During a phone call earlier Friday, President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed "ongoing efforts to secure the release of hostages taken by Hamas – including U.S. citizens –and to provide for safe passage for U.S. citizens and other civilians in Gaza," the White House said in a readout of the call.
  • Hamas has previously demanded Israel release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the hostages.

What they're saying: "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," Biden said in a statement after the two Americans' release.

  • "From the earliest moments of this attack, we have been working around-the-clock to free American citizens who were taken hostage by Hamas, and we have not ceased our efforts to secure the release of those who are still being held," he added.

Secretary of State Tony Blinken said in a press conference that a team from the U.S. embassy in Israel will meet the two Americans who were released soon.

  • "There are still 10 Americans that are unaccounted for and we know that at least some of them are being held hostage," Blinken said. "Every single hostage in Gaza has to be released."

Go deeper: Where countries stand on the Israel-Hamas war

This story has been updated with additional details throughout.

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