‘A miracle’: Ex-NBC journalist family members captured by Hamas released

Martin Fletcher, who has previously worked as the network’s Middle East correspondent, said he had ‘just found out today’ that his relatives had been captured

Mike Bedigan
Los Angeles
Friday 20 October 2023 21:05 BST
"A miracle": Ex-NBC journalist family members captured by Hamas released

A former NBC journalist whose two family members were taken hostage by Hamas has described their release by the militant group as “a miracle”.

Martin Fletcher, who has previously worked as the network’s Middle East correspondent, said there was still some confusion about the release, but that his wife had been in touch with her family, who were now with the Red Cross in Israel.

Earlier on Friday, Mr Fletcher became visibly emotional after revealing he had “just found out” that his two relatives had been captured by Hamas while visiting their grandmother for birthday celebrations in Israel – saying that the hostages were being used as “psychological warfare”.

According to the Israeli military, Hamas said the release of the hostages was “in response to Qatari efforts.”

Speaking to MSNBC for the second time on Friday, Mr Fletcher said: “To be honest, things are changing so quickly. You have so much confusion, confusing information coming from all sources. My wife has been in touch with her family directly in Israel and she’d been told that the hostages are now with the Red Cross inside Israel. And that’s as much as we know.

“I don’t know whether the family has been officially informed, I would imagine they have been, but I haven’t heard that directly but my wife has been in touch with the family.

“The hostages [being] with the Red Cross inside Israel, is obviously a huge sigh of relief and at the same time concern that there’s so many more hostages. [We were] hoping that this would happen and the fact that it actually happened is a miracle.”

Mr Fletcher added that he did not know his relatives – Judith Raanan, 59, and her 17-year-old daughter Natalie Raanan – very well, but that they were a “tight-knit family”.

“You don’t have to be a close relative to be concerned about your family members,” he said.

“They’re not people that I know well, I’ve met him a few times at family events, weddings and things like that. I can’t speak about who they are, who they really are, in terms of their you know, their personalities and their characters, but I can tell you one thing, the family has rallied around them in an extraordinary manner.”

He continued: “[I’m] not sure what provoked that all of a sudden – was it in response suddenly to publicity? Was it a response to President Biden’s speech? Was it part of a calculated plan? We don’t know. But probably, well it could be a combination of those things.”

In his presidential address to the nation on Thursday, Joe Biden said that freeing Israeli and American hostages in Hamas custody was a top priority, and that the US was “pursuing every avenue” to bring loved ones home.

“As president there is no higher priority for me than the safety of Americans held hostage,” Mr Biden said.

President Biden said freeing US hostages was a top priority (AP)

Mr Fletcher previously told MSNBC that the recovery of hostages was, for Israel, the “number two priority” and that it was trumped by the destruction of Hamas. “The bottom line is that Hamas is using the hostages for psychological warfare, and it’s working,” he said.

“Israel says hostages are number one priority, but actually, the bottom line probably is that they’re the number two priority. The number one priority is to go into Gaza, as Prime Minister Netanyahu said, to kill the Hamas leadership and to destroy Hamas – but the hostages are in the way.

“So you know, this is a really rather than unheard of situation.”

The Israeli military says that around 200 people have been taken hostage by Hamas, including 20 children and several people aged over 60.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in