An woman holds a sign that reads
A woman holds a sign that reads "Pain" during a protest for the release of hostages in Tel Aviv, Israel. Image Credit: Washington Post

Gaza: Hamas' armed wing, the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, has released two US hostages from Gaza - a mother and her daughter - "for humanitarian reasons" in response to Qatari mediation efforts in the war with Israel, its spokesman Abu Ubaida said on Friday.

Abu Ubaida said they released the citizens "for humanitarian reasons, and to prove to the American people and the world that the claims made by Biden and his fascist administration are false and baseless." 

The two Americans, Judith Raanan and her 17-year-old daughter Natalie, were out of the Gaza Strip and in the hands of the Israeli military, an army spokesman said.

Judith and Natalie Ranaan had been on a trip from their home in suburban Chicago to Israel to celebrate the Jewish holidays, the family said. They were in the kibbutz of Nahal Oz, near Gaza, on October 7 - Simchat Torah, a festive Jewish holiday – when Hamas and other militants stormed out of the territory into southern Israeli towns, killing hundreds and abducting about 200 others.

The family heard nothing from them since the attack and were later told by US and Israeli officials that they were being held in Gaza, Natalie’s brother Ben said.

Relatives of other captives welcomed the release and appealed for the others 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,’’ the statement said.

read more on Israel-Hamas war

Hamas says it took about 200 hostages during a deadly October 7 rampage carried out from the Gaza Strip on communities and military bases in southern Israel, part of the biggest attack on the country since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

Hamas also said 50 more are held by other armed groups in the enclave. It said more than 20 hostages have been killed by Israeli air strikes, but has not given any further details. Israel has said it will act to free the hostages while wiping out Hamas.

Israel has also said that there will be no end to its full blockade of the enclave unless Israeli hostages are freed.

Those held include women, children, the elderly and people from other countries which have been working for their release, along with some Israeli soldiers.

Hamas' armed wing said on October 16 that kidnapped non-Israelis were "guests" who would be released "when circumstances on the ground allow." Hamas has suggested the hostages could be swapped for 6,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons but Israel is unlikely to agree to that while it is on a war footing.