The two American women who were set free by the Hamas — a mother and her teenage daughter who live in the Chicago area — were reunited with their family in Israel on Friday, nearly two weeks after they were abducted along with dozens of other people by Palestinian militants.

The 59-year-old Judith Tay Raanan Mrand her 17-year-old daughter Natalie were handed over to Israeli forces at the border with the Gaza Strip.

Their release was announced by Abu Ubaidaha representative of Hamas’ armed wing of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades and was confirmed a short time later by the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu pointed out that the two American women, who live in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, are “on their way to a meeting point at a military base in the center of the country, where their family members are waiting for them.”

At the same time, the Israeli prime minister pledged that Israel “will fight until victory” in Gaza.

“Two of our abductees are at home. We do not give up efforts to return all abducted and missing people,” he stressed in his statement. “At the same time, we will continue to fight until victory,” Netanyahu concluded.

THE Uri Ra’anan, Natalie’s father, said he spoke to his daughter on the phone. “She sounded very well, very happy and seems to be fine.”

According to Netanyahu and their family, the two women were expelled from the Nahal Oz kibbutz during the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

The two women visited the kibbutz, located about 2 kilometers from the Gaza border, as part of a trip that began in September to celebrate the Jewish holidays, Natalie’s graduation from school and her grandmother’s 85th birthday, they said. their relatives.

In the meantime, the International Committee of the Red Cross announced that it contributed to the release of the two women.

In a statement, Miriana Spoliaric Egger explained that the ICRC contributed to their release “by transferring the hostages from Gaza to Israel”, underlining the neutrality of the organization she heads.

“Today’s release of two hostages from Gaza is a ray of hope. We are extremely relieved that they were able to return to their family after two weeks of agony,” he said.

The two women were among about 200 hostages held by Hamas. According to the Palestinian organization, 50 other hostages are being held by other armed groups in Gaza, while more than 20 have been killed by Israeli airstrikes.

Hamas clarified that the two American women were released for “humanitarian reasons”, after the mediation of Qatar.

A source with knowledge of the negotiations commented that the release of the two is “a first step”, adding that “talks for more releases are ongoing”.

US and British officials said they were working with Qatar to secure the release of the remaining hostages, who hail from countries including Thailand, Argentina, Germany, France and Portugal.

US reaction

US President Joe Biden thanked Qatar and Israel for their cooperation in order to free the two hostages. In a post on Platform X, Biden said he spoke with them on the phone and posted a photo of them that appears to have been taken during their conversation.

At the same time, the American president pledged that his country “will not stop unless it brings back home” the rest of the American citizens who are being held hostage.

Washington has not specified how many Americans are among the hostages.

For his part, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken stressed that all hostages “must be released immediately and unconditionally”. “There are 10 other Americans whose fate is unknown in this conflict. We know that some of them are being held by Hamas,” he explained.

Also when asked if Israel has so far complied with the laws of war in its response to the Hamas attack, Blinken reiterated that Israel has the right to defend itself and ensure that the Palestinian organization does not launch new attacks.

“It is important that operations are conducted on the basis of international law, humanitarian law, the law of war,” he pointed out. “There will be a lot of time to make assessments of how these operations have been conducted, but I can say from the U.S. side that this remains important to us.”

The UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) announced yesterday that more than 14,000 homes in the Gaza Strip – almost a third of the total – have been damaged and nearly 13,000 have been completely destroyed.