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Hamas releases two citizens of the United States on humanitarian grounds

Two American hostages, Judith Raanan and her 18-year-old daughter, Natalie Raanan, have been released by Hamas on Friday. Israel said Hamas has taken 203 people from Israel into Gaza.

Sheenu Sharma Edited By: Sheenu Sharma @20sheenu Jerusalem Published on: October 20, 2023 23:50 IST
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Image Source : AP Two American hostages, Judith Raanan and her 18-year-old daughter, Natalie Raanan, have been released by Hamas

Hamas today (October 20) said that it is releasing two American (United States) citizens they have been holding captive in Gaza since their October 7 (Saturday) raid on Israel. The Palestinian militant group said in a statement that in an agreement with the Qatari government, it was freeing a mother and daughter for humanitarian reasons.

Two American hostages, Judith Raanan and her 18-year-old daughter, Natalie Raanan, have been released by Hamas on Friday. 

US and Israeli officials did not immediately comment on the statement. Israel said Hamas has taken 203 people from Israel into Gaza.

Meanwhile, two weeks after their abduction, families of the hostages and missing held an emotional Kabbalat Shabbat in the Hostages and Missing Plaza here with 203 empty chairs to represent all of the people currently being held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza.

In the presence of the families, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and singer Kobi Aflalo sang his songs 'Michtav Le'achi (Letter to My Brother)' and 'Shir Lama'alot (A Song of Ascents)' leaving every eye filled with tears.

Among the families of the hostages and missing were the Leshem family, the Shem Tov family, the Marciano family, the David family, the Argamani family, the Louk family, the Gilboa family, the Or family, the Samerano family, the Albeg family, the Levi family, and other families.

Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau said, "The earth trembles beneath us, and our loved ones are there. We came here to send them a blessing of life and to send you dear families hands of hope, faith, and love. We are a people with nowhere else to go. We are a people who believe that this long journey has a happy ending."

Representatives of the families said, "No one could have imagined such a Kabbalat Shabbat. A simply heartbreaking moment. We hope that next Shabbat we will celebrate together with our loved ones who will return home."

Families of the hostages have pledged to escalate their pressure campaign on the government, following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to permit humanitarian aid into Gaza through Egypt without first ensuring the release of the 200 to 250 captives, The Times of Israel reported. The hostages were taken by Hamas on October 7 during an attack on Israel that resulted in the deaths of over 1,400 people and left thousands wounded.

One of the most widely adopted tactics by the hostages' families has been the distribution of "Kidnapped" posters worldwide in multiple languages, featuring the faces and stories of each known captive. Now, the tradition of setting an empty seat for prisoners is poised to become another symbol of the captives' plight, joining these posters. The practice of leaving an empty seat as a symbol of solidarity with prisoners has been a part of the global Jewish protest tradition since the 1960s, especially during the movement to free Soviet Jews.

Earlier this year, some Jewish individuals left an empty seat at their Passover seders to symbolise their support for Evan Gershkovich, a Jewish-American journalist imprisoned in Russia. On the second weekend since the tragic events, another initiative is an appeal for a worldwide Sabbath of solidarity and unity for the Jewish people. This is aimed at supporting and strengthening the residents of southern Israel, expressing solidarity with the security forces defending Israel's borders, and offering prayers for the safety of the abducted and missing individuals, The Times of Israel reported. 

(With agencies inputs) 

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