Israel-Hamas War

What we know about the Evanston mother, daughter released by Hamas after being taken hostage

The hostages released by Hamas are a mother and daughter from Evanston, Illinois

NBC Universal, Inc.

A mother and daughter from Illinois who were visiting southern Israel to celebrate a Jewish holiday and a relative's birthday have been released by Hamas after being taken hostage by the group during terrorist attacks on Oct. 7 that spearheaded a war in the region that has left thousands dead.

Israel Defense Forces confirmed that the two Americans released by Hamas are Judith and Natalie Raanan, who were received by the IDF at the Israel-Gaza Strip border before being taken to a military base where they are expected to reunite with family members.

Earlier on Friday, Uri Raanan, the ex-husband and father of the two hostages, confirmed to NBC Chicago that his family members had been rescued.

According to NBC News, Hamas officials said Friday they were releasing the American mother and daughter for "humanitarian reasons."

A spokesperson for Israel's Prime Minister's Office also confirmed the identities of the hostages.

"This evening (Friday) Judith Tai Raanan and Natalie Shoshana Raanan were released from the hands of the terrorist organization Hamas," a statement from the spokesperson said. "The two were kidnapped by the terrorist organization Hamas, in the murderous surprise attack last Saturday (07.10.23) when they were staying at Kibbutz Nahal Oz."

"The Government of Israel, the IDF and the entire security system will continue to operate with the best of their abilities and efforts in order to locate all of the missing and return all of the abductees home," the statement continued.

Yehudit Bat Tamar, also known as Judith, and her 19-year-old daughter Natalie Raanan, a 2023 graduate of Deerfield High School, were reportedly visiting family in Israel earlier this month when they were reported missing.

The two had been believed to be alive, with family members saying that had been contacted by the Israeli government confirming their status.

Judith and Natalie Raanan were visiting Israel to celebrate Judith's mother's birthday along with the Jewish holiday Simchat Torah when they were taken hostage by Hamas.

The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem posted a photo of Judith and Natalie as they were on the phone with President Biden.

"We are so grateful that they are safe," the post read. "We will continue to do everything we can to unite all hostages with their loved ones."

After family members didn't hear from the two following the attacks, they feared the worst as the Evanston community gathered in prayer for their release.

Natalie, a recent graduate of Deerfield High School, had vacationed to Italy this summer before the trip to Israel with her mother.

The school released the following statement following her presumed capture:

"It is with great sadness that I share we have received word that DHS alumna, Natalie Raanan (Class of 2023), who was visiting family in Israel, has been reported missing," the letter read in part. "Her family fears that she has been taken hostage by Hamas. We keep Natalie and her family in our hearts, along with all the innocent lives lost, wounded and impacted by the terrorist attack," the statement said.

Days after Judith and Natalie Raanan were presumed to have been taken hostage by Hamas, Meir Hecht, their rabbi, confirmed that the Israeli government made contact with their family to tell them the two were still alive.

"She was really excited, telling us for weeks and weeks about this trip with her daughter Natalie," Hecht said. "She said its right near Gaza. That kibbutz we know was infiltrated by Hamas, pulling people out their doors, murdering viscously and torturing people."

The secretary of state answered questions from reporters following the release from Hamas’ hold of an American mother and daughter.

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."

Biden added that the administration remains steadfast in its effort to release all American hostages taken captive by Hamas earlier this month.

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.

Despite earlier reports that Hamas would only release hostages in the event that Israel ceases striking Gaza, the release of the two Americans comes while Gaza is under fire, leaving uncertainty over the conflict's next stages.

Israel said Friday it does not plan to take long-term control over the Gaza Strip after an expected ground offensive to root out Hamas militants that rule the territory. The Israeli military punished Gaza with airstrikes, authorities inched closer to bringing aid to desperate families and hospitals, and Muslims around the world protested in solidarity with Palestinians.

Israel bombed areas in southern Gaza where Palestinians had been told to seek safety while it tries to destroy Hamas in retaliation for its brutal rampage in Israel two weeks ago. Fighting between Israel and militants in neighboring Lebanon also raged, prompting evacuations of Lebanese and Israeli border towns as fears of a widening conflict grew.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Us