Hamas frees American mother and daughter held hostage in Gaza

ITV News' John Irvine, Dan Rivers and John Ray report on the latest Israel-Gaza developments as Hamas releases two American hostages

  • Hamas released two American citizens on Friday it had been holding hostage in Gaza, Israel has confirmed.

  • United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres made an appearance at Egypt's Rafah crossing, while truckloads of aid wait to be allowed into Gaza.

  • Distributing the aid comes with challenges, but humanitarian organisations are pleading for the border to re-open as the Gaza Strip plunges further into crisis.

  • More than 3,700 Palestinians and 1,400 plus Israelis have died, according to their respective officials, as the Israeli Defence Minister said the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) will "soon see" the enclave "from the inside".

Two American citizens who were being held hostage in Gaza have been released, Israel has said.

Judith Raanan and her 17-year-old daughter, Natalie Raanan, who were kidnapped during the Hamas October 7 attack on Israel, have been handed over at the border and are on their way to an Israeli military base to be reunited with family.

Judith and Natalie, from Chicago, were taken hostage while visiting relatives in Nahal Oz for Simchat Torah, a festive Jewish holiday that marks the conclusion of the annual reading of the Torah. 

They were in the kibbutz of Nahal Oz, near Gaza, when Hamas - a proscribed terror group - and other militants stormed out of the territory into southern Israeli towns, killing hundreds and abducting 203 others.

Hamas said it released them for humanitarian reasons in an agreement with the Qatari government.

US President Joe Biden said he is "overjoyed" with the release of Judith and Natalie, adding they will have the full support of the US government as they "recover and heal".

“Two of our abducted are home,” Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

"We are not giving up the effort to bring all of the hostages and missing people home. At the same time, we are continuing to fight until victory.”

Judith Raanan and her 17-year-old daughter, Natalie Raanan, were abducted while visiting relatives. Credit: AP

The release comes amid growing expectations of a ground offensive, which Israel says is aimed at rooting out Hamas militants who rule the Gaza Strip.

Relatives of other captives welcomed the release and, in a statement, appealed for the remaining hostages to be freed.

"We call on world leaders and the international community to exert their full power in order to act for the release of all the hostages and missing,'' it said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which helped facilitate the release of Judith and Natalie, called "for the immediate release of all hostages".

"We are ready to visit the remaining hostages and to facilitate any future release following an agreement reached by the parties," the ICRC said in a statement.

The al-Ahli hospital in Gaza, after a missile hit it on Tuesday. Credit: AP

"While held in captivity, hostages must be allowed to receive humanitarian assistance and medical care.

"They must be given the opportunity to contact their families. Families separated from their loved ones endure agony no matter what side of the divide they are on.

"Our commitment to helping people who have been kidnapped, detained, or missing is unyielding."

Earlier on Friday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres pleaded for aid to be allowed to start making its way into Gaza, as trucks filled with supplies wait at Egypt's border.

Gaza has been plunged into a humanitarian crisis as its population is currently without clean water and electricity, while facing a bombardment of Israeli missile strikes.

More than 3,700 Palestinians and 1,400 plus Israelis have died, according to their respective officials, as the conflict continues into its fourteenth day.

British nationals have been able to escape through the Rafah crossing, connecting Gaza and Egypt. Credit: ITV News

On Thursday, President Biden confirmed Israel had agreed to send 20 trucks, stocked with food, water, and medical supplies, into Gaza via the Rafah crossing at the border with Egypt.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told broadcasters on Friday the crossing should reopen "imminently".

He said the UK, along with its allies, have "prioritised consistently" re-opening the Rafah crossing, adding: "It's been a feature of all my conversations."

Mr Sunak also called for the need to "intensify dialogue" over the Israel-Gaza crisis as "we all have a shared interest in peace".

'In a situation like this, it's important to intensify dialogue, because we all have a shared interest in peace,' Rishi Sunak told broadcasters

Mr Guterres made a speech at the crossing in Egypt on Friday, issuing an urgent appeal.

"These trucks are not just trucks - they are a lifeline," he said. "They are a difference between life and death for so many people in Gaza.

"And to see them stuck here makes me be very clear: what we need is to make them move. To make them move to the other side of the wall.

"It is impossible to be here and not feel a broken heart."

The reason behind the hold-up at the crossing remains unclear.

Gaza's main hospital is expected to run out of fuel in the next 24 hours and the region has already run out of water.

Palestinians walk through the rubble of destroyed buildings on the outskirts of Gaza City. Credit: AP

Aid workers have said every hour that relief to the Gazan people is delayed will cost lives. Medical charity Doctors Without Borders have warned that the wounded in Gaza are in danger of dying in the "next few hours".

Late on Thursday evening, an explosion struck a Greek Orthodox church housing displaced Palestinians, resulting in deaths and dozens of injuries.

Mohammed Abu Selmia, director general of Shifa Hospital, said dozens were hurt at the Church of Saint Porphyrios, but could not give a precise death toll because bodies were still under the rubble.

Meanwhile, Israeli leaders are rallying troops on the Gaza border, with Defence Minister Yoav Gallant saying they will "soon see" the enclave "from the inside," according to a statement from his office.

There have been looming fears of an Israeli ground invasion in Gaza, whose civilians are still waiting on life-saving supplies.

Meanwhile, violence has spread across other countries. A rocket attack near Baghdad International Airport, Iraq, on Wednesday added to a growing number of attacks targeting US and coalition forces in the Middle East.

'These trucks are the difference between life and death for so many people in Gaza,' the UN's secretary-general said from the Rafah crossing in Egypt

Two drones targeted the al-Tanf garrison in Syria, and on Friday, US officials said an American Navy warship intercepted missiles and drones launched from Yemen by the Iran-aligned Houthi movement.

Downing Street has also updated the number of Britons killed in Hamas's assault on Israel.

A spokeswoman for the prime minister said: "We can now confirm that at least nine British nationals were tragically killed in last week's terrorist attacks.

"And a further seven British nationals are missing, some of whom are feared to be among the dead or kidnapped."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...