Published1 day ago
A US teenager who was taken hostage by Hamas while visiting family in Israel is back home in Chicago, the Consul General of Israel to the Midwest confirmed on Monday.
Natalie Raanan and her mother, Judith, were taken by Hamas on 7 October in the surprise raid on Israel that killed 1,400 people.
They were freed on 20 October for “humanitarian reasons”, Hamas said.
There are no details yet on when Judith will return to the US.
“I am relieved to see Natalie back home in Chicago,” said Yinam Cohen, the Consul General of Israel to the Midwest. “Her family members have been anxiously waiting for her return, and today I am sharing their happiness.”
The Raanans were taken hostage while celebrating Natalie’s recent high school graduation and the 85th birthday of her grandmother, Tamar Ranaan, who survived the Hamas attack.
Before Natalie returned to Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, she and her mother were taken to a military base in the centre of Israel.
Judith Raanan had been suffering poor health and was receiving treatment from the Red Cross, CNN reported.
Qatar helped broker the release of the mother and daughter.
After hearing about their release, Natalie’s half-brother, Ben Raanan, told the BBC he felt an “overwhelming sense of gratitude to the large community of people around the world who have put my sister at the forefront of their thoughts, of their prayers, of all religions and all beliefs”.
At the time of their release to Israeli custody, US President Joe Biden said US officials have been “working around-the-clock to free American citizens who were taken hostage by Hamas”.
So far, four out of the 239 people kidnapped by Hamas on 7 October have been released, and the Ranaans are the only Americans.
An Israeli-German woman who was believed to have been taken, Shani Louk, was confirmed dead on Monday.
Violence has exploded in the region since Hamas swept through multiple kibbutz settlements and a music festival in the shock attack. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says more than 8,000 people have been killed since Israel’s retaliatory bombing began.