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Hamas Frees US Hostages Judith and Natalie Raanan from Gaza

Hamas releases US hostages kidnapped in attack on Israel, says Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office.

Hamas, an Islamist group, has released two American hostages, Judith and Natalie Raanan, who were kidnapped during an attack on southern Israel. The Israeli Prime Minister's office confirmed the release of the mother and daughter, who were taken from the Nahal Oz kibbutz near the Gaza border. The women were on their way to a military base in central Israel when they were abducted. Reports state that they are from Evanston, a suburb of Chicago.

These hostages are the first to be freed since Hamas gunmen launched an attack on Israel almost two weeks ago, resulting in the deaths of 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and the capture of around 200 hostages. Abu Ubaida, a spokesman for Hamas's armed wing, stated that the release was a result of Qatari mediation efforts and was done for humanitarian reasons. He also aimed to disprove the claims made by President Biden and his administration, which Hamas referred to as "false and baseless."

Earlier in the day, the Israeli army released a statement confirming that the majority of the hostages were still alive. Israel has made it clear that they intend to eliminate Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza, and have been relentlessly bombing the strip with air strikes. This has resulted in a total siege on the enclave, leaving its 2.3 million residents without access to food, fuel, and medical supplies.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations visited the crossing between Gaza and Egypt and emphasized the urgent need for humanitarian aid to be allowed into the region. The Palestinian health ministry reported that at least 4,137 Palestinians, including hundreds of children, have been killed, and 13,000 have been wounded in Gaza. More than a million people have been displaced from their homes as a result of the conflict.

Israel has mobilized tanks and troops near the perimeter of Gaza, indicating the possibility of a ground invasion. In the midst of this violence, the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the main Palestinian Christian denomination, reported that Israeli forces had struck the Church of Saint Porphyrius in Gaza City. The church had become a sanctuary for both Christians and Muslims seeking refuge from the conflict.

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