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Biden hails freed U.S. hostages as family awaits reunion

Biden hails freed U.S. hostages as family awaits reunion

President Biden told the American mother and daughter released by Hamas militants after 13 days in captivity that he was “just delighted” about their freedom and pledged to work toward the release of other U.S. hostages.

During a call Friday, Biden told Judith Raanan, 59, and her daughter Natalie, 17, that he was “so … glad you’re out,” according to a video clip of the call released Saturday by the White House on social media.

“We’ve been working on it a long time,” Biden said, addressing the pair through a speaker phone on his desk in the Oval Office. “We’re going to get them all out, God willing.”

“I just want to say thank you for your services for Israel,” Natalie told the president during the call. He responded, “Look, that’s been long-serving.”

The conversation came hours after the Raanans were released by Hamas authorities to the Red Cross in Gaza; the pair was reportedly reunited with family members in Israel.

They had been staying with relatives at the Nahal Oz, a kibbutz near the border with Gaza, when they were taken captive on Oct. 7 during an attack on Israel by the militant group.

Hamas said it released them at the request of Qatari mediators for “humanitarian reasons,” though it still remains unclear why they were the first hostages set free. More than 200 are believed to be held by Hamas, including at least 10 Americans, authorities said.

Uri Raanan, Natalie’s father, told The Washington Post on Saturday that he spoke with her briefly Friday, and she told him she is feeling “good.”

“She told me she’s good, everything is okay, she looks good,” he said. “I haven’t talked to her since then.”

He added that he hopes to be reunited with his daughter early next week, when he said she could return to her home in the Chicago suburbs. Her birthday is Tuesday.

After two American hostages are freed, hope and anguish remain in Israel

Uri Raanan said he has not spoken to Judith, his ex-wife. He said family members were hopeful when they first heard news reports that Hamas was planning to release a mother and daughter.

Then he received phone calls from the FBI and the Israel Defense Forces saying Natalie and Judith had been set free.

“Everything came so fast,” he told The Post. “I have been more than thrilled.”

In a statement for the family, Ayelet, Or, and Limor Sella, relatives of Judith and Natalie, thanked Biden, Congress members and others who helped press for their release. They said they have eight other family members who remain hostages.

“We remain entirely focused on the efforts to secure the return” of all the other hostages, they said. “We will work around-the-clock with the other families of those held hostage until each and every one of them is back home.”

Rabbi Meir Hecht, co-director of the Chabad House in Evanston, Ill., told reporters on Friday that Judith Raanan was a regular member of the Orthodox congregation for more than 10 years.

“While we continue to be so happy and thankful for Natalie and Judith coming out of the hands of murderers, we also want everyone to continue to pray for the rest of the hostages,” Hecht said, according to video of the remarks.

Hecht said friends were looking forward to a “huge celebration” upon their return home.

“Goodness will prevail. Don’t give up,” Hecht said. “Terrorists want to make us hopeless. We have to tell them we stand proud, we stand strong. And our prayers do get answered.”

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David Nakamura

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