Israel-Hamas War

Friend expresses gratitude after Evanston daughter, mother released by Hamas

Natalie Raanan, 17, graduated from Deerfield High School earlier this year and was taking a "gap year" to travel.

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A graduate of Deerfield High School and her mother were freed from Hamas captivity on Friday after being taken hostage by the terrorist organization in Israel.

Hamas released video late Friday showing the release of Natalie and Judith Raanan, of Evanston, who were visiting southern Israel when they were kidnapped during deadly terrorist attacks that spearheaded the Israel-Hamas war.

After the news of their release broke, Deerfield High School Principal Kathryn Anderson issued a statement, saying in part, "The entire District 113 community are thrilled with the news that DHS graduate Natalie Raanan and her mother have been released... We wish them safe and quick passage back to the U.S."

Natalie, 17, graduated from Deerfield High School earlier this year and was taking a "gap year" to travel.

Natalie's high school friend Ruby Gandseidita also decided to take a "gap year" and planned to meet up with Natalie in Israel during their travels.

“She’s someone who sees the beauty in the world, which is really lovely," Gandseidita said. "She's very kind-hearted, soft, very much so, thinking of other people.”

Gandseidita said she often felt helpless, knowing she couldn't do anything to help her friend's dangerous situation.

She said she kept reminding herself of Natalie's strength and ability to remain level-headed, hoping those traits would help her.

The father of a suburban teen who was released by Hamas after being taken hostage nearly two weeks ago expressed relief Friday, saying his daughter and ex-wife were safe and expected to come home next week.

"I remembered even when something bad is happening to her, she would think of other people. And she was always someone who wanted to help other people and make sure everyone around her was okay," she said. "I remembered that, and kept that in my mind and said 'this is a really strong person who cares a lot about the people who are around her.'"

When Gandseidita learned that Natalie and her mom would be released together, she couldn't help but feel an overwhelming sense of relief and happiness.

"When she comes back, we are going to show her so much love," she said. “I don’t know what she’s experienced, and nothing can make up for it, and nothing can relieve her of that pain, but I know that her family and her friends are going to just give her an abundance of love for the rest of her life.”

The pair's rescue represents hope that the other hostages taken by Hamas during the terrorist attacks, believed to be around 200 people by the Israeli government, may also have their releases negotiated.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, President Biden said that the U.S. secured the release of the two hostages while thanking the Qatari and Israeli governments for their "partnership in this work" to free the mother and daughter.

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