A spokesperson for the family of the two American hostages who were freed by Hamas on Friday declared that they will not be celebrating until the eight other members of their family and the estimated 192 other hostages kidnapped by Hamas are freed.
The American mother and daughter – 59-year-old Judith Tai Raanan and 17-year-old Natalie Raanan – were released on Friday by their Hamas captors and handed over to Israeli officials with the assistance of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Judith, a aesthetician from Evanston, Illinois, and Natalie, a recent graduate of Deerfield High School, were in Israel to visit their family members at Kibbutz Nahal Oz for the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah, when they were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists during the surprise attack on October 7.
Uri Raanan, Natalie’s father, told the Associated Press that the freed mother and daughter will hopefully be back in the United States next week.
But the family’s relief is tempered by the fact that eight other members of their family remain captives of Hamas.
The Times of Israel reports:
“The release of Judith and Natalie is a moment of extraordinary relief – far beyond anything we can express in words,” say family spokespeople Ayelet, Or, and Limor Sella, cousins of the Illinois-based pair, in an English-language statement. “Unfortunately, we do not have the privilege of celebrating their return, or of mourning our lost loved ones.
“We remain entirely focused on the efforts to secure the return of our eight other family members that remain captive in Gaza, along with the estimated 192 other people still held hostage, which includes numerous Americans and many who are seriously injured and in need of immediate medical treatment,” they say.
The family also vowed to continue working with the other families of hostages to assist in their release, and they thanked the Biden administration and members of Congress for their help in freeing Judith and Natalie.
President Joe Biden released a video on X (formerly Twitter) of his phone call with the freed Americans, who expressed their gratitude.
Judith and Natalie, I’m so glad you’re coming home. pic.twitter.com/c7az0PcYXn
— President Biden (@POTUS) October 21, 2023
“I am overjoyed that they will soon be reunited with their family, who has been wracked with fear,” Biden said in a statement. The president “relayed that they will have the full support of the U.S. government as they recover from this terrible ordeal,” the White House said.
During his Friday press briefing, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed the release of the two Americans, saying that he “shares in the relief that their families, friends, and loved ones are feeling.”
However, Blinken also noted that “there are still 10 additional Americans who remain unaccounted for in this conflict,” among the estimated 200 still held by Hamas.
In his Oval Office address on Thursday night, President Joe Biden stated, “As I told the families of Americans being held captive by Hamas, we’re pursuing every avenue to bring their loved ones home. As President, there is no higher priority for me than the safety of Americans held hostage.”