Family Members Speak Out as American Hostages Released

Family Members Speak Out as American Hostages Released

( – On October 7, Hamas took hostages after attacking Israel. Among those snatched were mother and daughter, 59-year-old Judith Raanan and 17-year-old Natalie Raanan. After two weeks in captivity, Hamas freed the two Americans on October 20. Now, their family is speaking out.

On Monday, October 23, ABC News aired an interview with siblings Or and Ayelet Sella. They sat down with journalist Matt Gutman in Tel Aviv, Israel, to talk about the release of their cousins. Ayelet said, “I realized I hadn’t breathed for two weeks.” While they’re thrilled that Judith and Natalie are safe, they are also suffering heartbreak as well.

According to the siblings, three family members were murdered by the terrorists, and eight other family members are still being held hostage in Gaza. Or told Gutman they just hope their other loved ones are still alive and not injured. Most of all, they said they “hope and urge anyone that has any influence to” do what they can to bring them home.

Judith and Natalie were freed after some behind-the-scenes diplomacy between the US and Qatar. The New York Times gave an accounting of how it happened, reporting that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Qatar’s prime minister after the terrorist attack took place on October 7. Two senior State Department officials said the secretary brought up the issue of hostages in the call, hoping Qatari officials would be the middlemen.

For nearly two weeks, Blinken, other US officials, Qatari officials, and representatives from France, Egypt, Türkiye, and other countries tried to figure out how to get the hostages. Qatar was especially important because it reportedly had an open line with Hamas. The negotiations finally paid off on Friday, October 20, when the mother and daughter were released.

Ayelet told Gutman they can’t be happy, celebrate, mourn, or rest. Getting their cousins back was the beginning, not the end.

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