Two American hostages released by Hamas return to Israel
Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), said Friday in a statement that it has released two American hostages for "humanitarian reasons," in response to Qatari efforts.
The brigades said it made the move to prove that the U.S. allegations were "false and baseless." This is the first time that the Gaza-ruling group released hostages since the conflict began almost two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office confirmed the release of the two hostages in a statement.
"This evening two hostages were released from the hands of the Hamas terrorist organization," the office said in a statement, identifying the two released as Judith Raanan and Natalie Raanan.
The statement added that the two released were "received on the border with Gaza and are on the way to a military base where they will meet their families."
Israeli media Channel 2 reported earlier that the two are a mother and daughter who are U.S. citizens. It is unclear whether they are also Israeli citizens.
In a press release, U.S. President Joe Biden also confirmed his administration secured the release of two American hostages and thanked Qatar and Israel for their partnership in this work.
Hamas militants launched a surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7, firing thousands of rockets and infiltrating Israeli territory, where it seized a large number of hostages. The brigades previously stated they were holding 200 to 250 captives in Gaza. An Israeli army statement earlier in the day said a majority of the hostages were alive.