Family of released American hostages describe ‘intense’ reunion

‘Getting Judith and Natalie back is not the end. It’s the beginning,’ the freed hostages’ cousin Ayelet Sella said

Kelly Rissman
Monday 23 October 2023 15:36 BST
Israel military mounts limited Gaza ground raid, confirms hostage number at 222

Relatives of two American hostages, who were released from Hamas’ captivity on Friday, have shared their relief after the mother and daughter had been held for nearly two weeks.

Judith Raanan, 59, and Natalie Raanan, 17, a mother and daughter, were released to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Israel on Friday.

Cousins of the Raanans told Good Morning America about the reunion. Or Sella said that upon reuniting, he never felt a hug that was “this intense in my life.”

“We don’t have the privilege to be happy or to celebrate. We don’t have the privilege to mourn. We cannot put it aside. We cannot rest,” Ayelet Sella said. “Getting Judith and Natalie back is not the end. It’s the beginning.”

GMA reported that 13 members of this family were kidnapped or killed during the gruesome attack earlier this month.

Or Sella said, “They knew exactly what they wanted to do.”

He added that the kidnappers “put the whole family in the kitchen on the floor and had them wait there at gunpoint.”

The relatives heard nothing since the kidnapping — until word spread of their release on 20 October.

Ayelet Sella said she started getting messages from her friends that the description of the two hostages being released sounded like Judith and Natalie. She spoke about her mixed feelings following their release: “There are so many others. We don’t know why them. So for me [I feel] lucky and guilty.”

She emphasised that freeing other hostages should be the priority before any other attacks transpire. President Joe Biden has echoed this sentiment, reportedly urging Israel to delay its planned ground invasion of Gaza until more hostages are freed.

The IDF said over the weekend that there are 222 confirmed hostages.

“As president, I have no higher priority than the safety of Americans held hostage around the world,” he previously said.

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