Natalie Raanan (left) and Judith Raanan talk to US President Joe Biden on the phone after their release
Photo: US Embassy in Jerusalem / AFP
They were kidnapped by the Islamist Hamas from a kibbutz near Gaza on October 7: Judith Raanan, 51, and her daughter Natalie Raanan, 17. Now the father of the teenagers has spoken out. "She's fine. She's doing very well," Uri Raanan told an AP reporter.
The two Americans are the first hostages to be released by Hamas, apparently with the support of Qatar. The terrorist militia Hamas says it abducted 200 people in the attack on Israel.
According to family members, the Raanans live in Evanston, a city near Chicago. According to the AP news agency and an Israeli media report, they are American-Israeli dual nationals. Natalie, 17, was born in the U.S. and lived with her mother in Israel until she was about <> years old, her father said. After that, she returned to the United States.
The women visited Israel to celebrate the Jewish holidays, the 17-year-old's graduation from high school and her grandmother's 85th birthday, family members said. According to Israel's President Benjamin Netanyahu and relatives, the mother and daughter were abducted from Kibbutz Nahal Oz during the surprise attack on southern Israel on October 7. It is located near the border with Gaza.
They were released on Friday evening (local time). The Israeli in charge of the abductees and missing, Brigadier General Gal Hirsch, received them at the border of the Gaza Strip, the president's office had announced.
Uri Raanan, 71, is the father of 17-year-old Natalie and also lives in a suburb of Chicago and is separated from Natalie's mother, Judith. He said in a brief press conference that he had only spoken to his daughter for a few emotional minutes and that they had not talked about what had happened to her and her mother in the past two weeks. Judith had a minor injury, which he described as a "small scratch" on her hand. I have tears in my eyes, but I feel very, very good," Raanan said.
Their family had not heard from them since the attack and later learned from U.S. and Israeli officials that they were being held in Gaza, according to Natalie's brother, Ben Raanan.
Her father, Uri Raanan, said he saw on the news on Friday that an American mother and her daughter were being released by Hamas. He had hoped all day that his daughter and her mother were meant.
Next week Natalie will be 18
Next week, Natalie will be 18 years old. The certainty that she can celebrate her birthday at home with family and friends is wonderful. "That's the best news," he said. He said he said the two were on their way to Tel Aviv and would return to the U.S. early next week. He also said he did not know why they were selected for release.
Ben Raanan, Natalie's brother, said that before their abduction, he and his sister had talked about getting tattoos to match their birthdays. Instead, he had a lettering tattooed this week that contained her and his names.