Freed American Hostages Speak Out

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Two Americans held in Gaza were released by the Hamas on Friday night. The deal was brokered by Qatar, which occupies a central node between different Middle Eastern actors.

The two hostages are only a small part of the over 100 hostages, which include another twenty or so Americans. Israel has mostly been publicly ignoring the hostage situation as to not lose the initiative against Hamas. The NY Times says:

On Friday night, when Hamas released two captives, Judith and Natalie Raanan, an American-Israeli mother and daughter, one of the first things American officials did was thank the Qataris. The Raanans were the first hostages to emerge from captivity, and the families of the remaining 200 or more captives desperately hope this is just the beginning.

For two weeks, the families have been stuck in a state of suspended shock, not knowing if the people closest to them in the world are alive. Intelligence experts say Hamas has likely split up the hostages into small groups, separating the Israeli soldiers they captured from the civilians, who span ages from less than 1 year old to more than 85. Hamas is believed to be holding the captives in a maze of tunnels beneath Gaza’s streets as Israeli warplanes bomb the enclave.

Since its attack on October 7, Hamas has been mostly firing rockets and not engaging in further ground attacks. The reason for the release could be to paralyze the United States in its resolve of freeing the hostages either by itself or to delay Israel’s invasion in the hopes of a diplomatic solution. The Hill says:

“Well obviously we should be very happy that at least two people have been let go,” Bolton said in an interview with Newsmax. “But … given the way Hamas put it, and given what we know about Hamas and how it operates, what the character of its leadership is, I have to say for those concerned with the other hostages, I think this is an entirely cynical move by them.”

Bolton, the security advisor to former President Trump, said the release of the two hostages was an effort by Hamas to delay the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) from going into Gaza. The delay will allow Hamas to “create more booby traps for them,” he said.

While it waits for Israel’s ground offensive, Hamas is launching diplomatic offensives to portray itself as the victim of the war. Israel has relaxed its initial siege of the Strip, buying Hamas more time to rally the world to its side.

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