- The militant group Hamas released two American hostages. Friday — a mother and her teenage daughter — who had been held in Gaza since Hamas’ shock cross-border attack two weeks ago, according to the Israeli government.
- Israel hit the Gaza Strip with more airstrikes overnight, amid warnings that Israeli forces could invade the Hamas-ruled territory at any time.
- Israel said Friday that it planned to evacuate Kiryat Shmona. The evacuees will be placed in state-funded guest houses. The city is near Israel’s border with Lebanon, where there have been repeated rocket and missile attacks.
- The death toll from the hospital strike in Gaza is now reported to be at the lower end of 100 to 300 people.
- In Jerusalem, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told Israeli President Isaac Herzog that Britain stood by Israel’s right to defend itself. He also stressed the need to provide aid to Gaza’s residents. “Palestinians are victims of what Hamas has done,” he said.
- More than 1,400 Israelis and 3,400 Palestinians have been killed.
The militant group Hamas released two American hostages Friday — a mother and her teenage daughter — who were held in Gaza since Hamas’ shock cross-border attack through Israel two weeks ago, according to the Israeli government.
The mother and daughter — identified in media reports as Judith Tai Raanan and her daughter Natalie Shoshana Raanan of Evanston, Illinois — also hold Israeli citizenship, and they were the first U.S. hostages to be released. About 200 people were still being held.
The Raanans were handed over to Israeli forces at the border of the Gaza Strip and were “on their way to a meeting point at a military base in the center of the country, where their family members are waiting for them,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.
The relatives of the other captives applauded the release and asked that the others also be set free.
“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.
In Washington, Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed the release of the two women.
“We share in the relief with their families, friends and loved ones,” he said. “But there are still 10 additional Americans who remain unaccounted for in this conflict. We know that some of them are being held hostage by Hamas.”
Meanwhile, Israel continued to pummel the Gaza Strip overnight with airstrikes, amid warnings that Israeli forces could invade the Hamas-ruled territory at any time.
The Israel Defense Forces posted on X, formerly known as Twitter: “During the night, fighter jets attacked over a hundred operational targets of the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip, destroying tunnel shafts, munitions warehouses and dozens of operational headquarters.”
Meanwhile, Israel was planning to evacuate the northern city of Kiryat Shmona. Authorities said Friday that the residents would be placed in state-funded guest houses. The northern city is near Israel’s border with Lebanon and has been subjected to numerous rocket and missile attacks from Palestinian militant groups.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak traveled Friday to Egypt, his latest Middle Eastern destination, as the conflict continued to grow. Sunak has already met with Israeli leaders and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Sunak followed U.S. President Joe Biden with a visit to Israel to demonstrate Western support for the war against Hamas militants.
“You have suffered an unspeakable, horrific act of terrorism and I want you to know that the United Kingdom and I stand with you,” Sunak said. Later, he told Netanyahu, “We will stand with your people. And we also want you to win.”
Thursday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told hundreds of thousands of the country’s ground troops to get ready to invade the Gaza Strip.
Gallant met with Israeli infantry soldiers positioned on the Gaza border, telling the forces to “get organized, be ready,” but did not say when the order would come for the invasion.
“Whoever sees Gaza from afar now will see it from the inside,” he said. “I promise you.”
Israel has amassed 300,000 or more troops along the border following Hamas’ shock, cross-border October 7 attack on Israel that killed 1,400 people, most of them civilians.
Biden said after his brief visit to Tel Aviv on Wednesday that he had candid discussions with Israeli leaders as they conduct military strikes that have taken more than 3,400 lives in Gaza, many of them civilians.
“I was very blunt with the Israelis,” he told reporters aboard Air Force One. Biden said that while Israel “has been badly victimized,” the country has “an opportunity to relieve the suffering” of innocent civilians in Gaza “who have nowhere to go.”
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.