Israel-Hamas War

Who are Evanston mother, daughter released by Hamas after being taken hostage

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

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Two American hostages, a mother and daughter from Evanston, taken captive during Hamas' terrorist attacks in southern Israel on Oct. 7 have been released by the organization, Uri Raanan, the ex-husband and father of the two hostages confirmed to NBC Chicago.

Judith and Natalie Raanan were visiting Israel to celebrate a relative's birthday along with the Jewish holiday Simchat Torah when they were taken hostage by Hamas during terrorist attacks that have spearheaded a war between Israel and the terrorist organization, leaving thousands dead across Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.

Hamas, a political and military entity that governs the Gaza Strip, has been designated as a terrorist organization by multiple countries, including the U.S., Canada and the European Union.

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

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 in 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 it's right near Gaza. That kibbutz we know was infiltrated by Hamas, pulling people out their doors, murdering viscously and torturing people."

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.

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.

Speaking to lawmakers about Israel’s long-term plans for Gaza, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant laid out a three-stage plan that seemed to suggest that Israel did not intend to reoccupy the territory it left in 2005.

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