2 American hostages freed

Gaza’s Hamas rulers freed two Americans among the 200 hostages they kidnapped in the deadly 7 October attacks in Israel. More hostages may be released, the group hinted.

According to the Israeli government, Judith Tai Raanan and her daughter, Natalie Shoshana Raanan, were returned to Israel late Friday.

There was no word on their condition, but US President Joe Biden was “overjoyed” by the news. Biden called the two women after they were released.

Hamas also announced it was working with Qatar and Egypt to free its “civilian” hostages, implying that more could be released.

An Israeli emissary met the couple at the Gaza border and took them to a military base in central Israel “where their families are waiting to meet them.”

The Ranaan family, like many of the captives, had begun a worldwide campaign to pressure Hamas to release them.

Hamas said the “al-Qassam Brigades released two American citizens for humanitarian reasons” after being approached by Qatar and Egypt.

The Islamist rulers of Gaza said they were “working with all mediators to implement the movement’s decision to close the civilian (hostage) file if appropriate security conditions permit.” It provided no specifics about its demands.

Israel claims that Hamas militants took 203 people during the bloodiest attacks in Israel’s 75-year history, including Israelis, dual nationals and foreigners.

According to the authorities, at least 1,400 individuals were killed, mostly civilians.


Relentless bombing

Israel has retaliated with a continuous bombing campaign against Gaza, killing at least 4,137 people, mostly civilians.

The hostages have become a massive problem in Israel, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office stating that the government will use “any means available to locate all those missing and bring all those kidnapped home.”

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

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

“Every single one of them should be released,” said Blinken, adding that a team from the US Embassy would visit the two freed women.

Qatar is a major aid donor to Gaza, and two Hamas leaders are based in the Gulf state.

A Qatari foreign ministry spokesperson 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.”

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.


Saudi factor

Biden said Friday he believed Hamas’ brutal attack on Israel two weeks ago aimed to disrupt the warming ties between the country and Saudi Arabia.

“One of the reasons they acted like they did… why Hamas moved on Israel… (was) because they knew I was about to sit down with the Saudis,” Biden told guests at a campaign fundraiser.

“The Saudis want to recognize Israel… unite the Middle East,” he said.

The momentum toward a landmark US-brokered deal to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia — the guardian of Islam’s two holiest sites — was shattered by the 7 October attack by Hamas militants on Israel.

A bombing campaign launched in response by Israel has leveled entire city blocks in Gaza, so far killing 4,137 Palestinians, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Saudi officials announced on 14 October during a visit to Riyadh by US Secretary Blinken that the country had suspended talks with Israel on the normalization of relations.

Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, had spoken of progress with Israel but also insisted on movement on the Palestinian cause.

The Gulf kingdom has never recognized Israel and did not join the 2020 Abraham Accords, brokered by the United States, which led neighboring Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Morocco, to establish diplomatic ties with Israel.

With AFP

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *