Hamas frees mother, daughter hostages

(UPDATE) HAMAS released two American hostages held in Gaza on Friday, offering a “sliver of hope” to desperate families as Israel pounded the densely populated territory.

The Islamist group took more than 200 people hostage when it stormed into Israel from the Gaza Strip on October 7 and killed at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians who were shot, mutilated or burned to death on the first day of the raid, according to Israeli officials.

FREED HAMAS HOSTAGES In this photo provided by the Government of Israel, Judith Raanan (right), and her 17-year-old daughter Natalie are escorted by Israeli soldiers and Gal Hirsch, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s special coordinator for returning the hostages, as they return to Israel from captivity in the Gaza Strip, Friday, Oct. 20, 2023. Hamas released the pair in what it said was a goodwill gesture late Friday, nearly two weeks after they were captured in a bloody cross-border raid by the Islamic militant group. The Hamas attack sparked a war that is entering its third week, and Hamas is believed to still be holding some 200 people hostage. PHOTO FROM GOVERNMENT OF ISRAEL VIA AP

FREED HAMAS HOSTAGES In this photo provided by the Government of Israel, Judith Raanan (right), and her 17-year-old daughter Natalie are escorted by Israeli soldiers and Gal Hirsch, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s special coordinator for returning the hostages, as they return to Israel from captivity in the Gaza Strip, Friday, Oct. 20, 2023. Hamas released the pair in what it said was a goodwill gesture late Friday, nearly two weeks after they were captured in a bloody cross-border raid by the Islamic militant group. The Hamas attack sparked a war that is entering its third week, and Hamas is believed to still be holding some 200 people hostage. PHOTO FROM GOVERNMENT OF ISRAEL VIA AP

The fate of the hostages has been shrouded in uncertainty, so the release of mother and daughter Judith Tai Raanan and Natalie Shoshana Raanan offered a rare “sliver of hope,” said Mirjana Spoljaric, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

US President Joe Biden said he was “overjoyed” by the release, which comes days after he visited Israel to express solidarity with the wounded country and press for humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas and says around 1,500 of the group’s fighters were killed in clashes before its army regained control of the area under attack on October 7.

Get the latest news

delivered to your inbox
Sign up for The Manila Times newsletters
By signing up with an email address, I acknowledge that I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Its military campaign has so far leveled entire city blocks in Gaza, killing 4,137 Palestinians, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Israeli troops have massed on the border with Gaza ahead of an expected ground invasion that officials have pledged will begin “soon.”

But a full-blown land offensive offers a multitude of challenges, including the risk posed to hostages from Israel and around the world held by Hamas.

‘Overwhelming sense of joy’

Biden said he had spoken to the released pair and promised US support “as they recover from this terrible ordeal.”

He thanked Qatar, which hosts Hamas’ political bureau, for its mediation in securing the release and said he was working “around the clock” to win the return of other Americans being held.

Natalie Raanan’s half-brother Ben told the BBC he felt an “overwhelming sense of joy” at the release after “the most horrible of ordeals.”

Hamas said Egypt and Qatar had negotiated the release, and it was “working with all mediators to implement the movement’s decision to close the civilian [hostage] file if appropriate security conditions allow.”

Israel’s military said Friday “the majority” of those abducted are still alive, while traumatized families demanded more action.

“Absolutely nothing has been done,” Assaf Shem Tov, whose nephew was abducted from a music festival, said Friday.

“We ask humanity to interfere and bring back all those young boys, young girls, mothers, babies.”

In Gaza, Israeli jets continued a relentless bombing campaign, with the military saying it hit more than 100 Hamas targets overnight.

‘Life and death’ aid

Some 2.4 million Palestinians live in the densely populated enclave, and almost half have been displaced, according to the UN.

Fadwa al-Najjar said she and her seven children walked for 10 hours to reach the camp, at some points breaking into a run as air strikes descended around them.

“We saw bodies and limbs torn off, and we just started praying, thinking we were going to die,” she told AFP.

“I would have preferred not to leave, to have stayed at home and died there,” her daughter Malak added.

Israel’s operation will take not “a day, nor a week, nor a month,” the country’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned Friday, and will result in “the end of Israel’s responsibilities in the Gaza Strip.”

An Israeli foreign ministry source, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said Israel envisaged “handing over the keys” to neighboring Egypt, which has strongly rejected attempts to place Gaza’s residents under its responsibility.

Peace summit

“I’m afraid that the current destruction is part of a clear plan for people to have no place left to live,” said Omar Ashour, a retired general in Gaza.

“This will cause a second Nakba,” he added, referring to the 760,000 Palestinians who were expelled from or fled their homes when Israel was created.

Israel is strongly backed by international allies, and Biden on Friday requested $14 billion in emergency military aid for Israel.

He argued the money would secure US interests in the region, where there are fears of a wider conflagration.

The United States has moved two aircraft carriers into the eastern Mediterranean to deter Iran or Lebanon’s Hezbollah, both Hamas allies, and France said it had directly warned Hezbollah against involvement.

The cross-border fire continued overnight though, with one Israeli soldier killed, Israeli radio said, and the military announced it hit Hezbollah targets after rocket and anti-tank missile fire.

Israel on Friday ordered the 25,000 residents of the northern town of Kiryat Shmona to evacuate.

Debris from an intercepted rocket fell on a school playground in the town on Wednesday, resident Lianne Abutbul told AFP.

“It could have killed children; it’s really scary.”

Violence has also flared in the West Bank, where 84 Palestinians have been killed since October 7, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

Protests have erupted over the conflict across the region, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will host a peace summit on Saturday attended by regional and some Western leaders.

Genocide

Meanwhile, Palestinian Ambassador to the Philippines Saleh Mohammad accused Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinian people.

“Israel’s war machines are still bombing everywhere and are not excluding any target. Palestinian life matters. Our life is not lesser than Israelis. This is not a war; this is genocide,” the Palestinian envoy said during a virtual press briefing via Zoom platform on Friday night.

He deplored the support of some world leaders for Israel’s right to self-defense, which the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) used to commit acts of genocide against the Palestinians.

“What Israel is doing is no longer its defense against Hamas. Rather, it has an agenda of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people, displacement, and mass deportations of the people there,” Ambassador Mohammad told reporters.

“What you see now in Gaza, is this self-defense? The scenes of these people getting killed, innocent people, this is what the world leaders authorized Israel to do,” he lamented.

“World leaders have condemned Hamas. World leaders have shown sympathy and solidarity with Israel and declare that they understand, and they support the right of Israel to defend themselves,” said the envoy.

However, Mohammad emphasized that the right of defense is not like committing genocide.

He said no world leader who has ethics and loves his own people would authorize another country to massacre innocent civilians, like the one happening now in Gaza.

Leave a Reply

Discover more from Planet Philippines UK

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue Reading

%d bloggers like this: