Two American hostages abducted by Hamas in early October have been released “for humanitarian reasons”, the terrorist group announced Friday.

“In response to Qatari efforts, Al-Qassam Brigades released two American citizens (a mother and her daughter) 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,” Hamas said in a statement, according to the Times of Israel.

Judith Raanan and her 18-year-old daughter Natalie, were both released and are en route to a military base in central Israel to meet their family, the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later confirmed on X.

The two victims were transferred from Gaza to the Israeli border by the Red Cross, the officials added.

The Raanans were released due to Judith’s declining health, the Times of Israel reported.

The women were taken hostage when Hamas stormed Kibbutz Nahal Oz 13 days ago, the outlet previously reported.

They were enjoying a “really special” trip to Israel to celebrate a relative’s birthday and observe the Jewish holiday season when the Hamas war started, their rabbi, Meir Hecht, told the outlet.

The Raanans’ release was “hopefully the start of more to come”, a diplomatic source told CNN.

The same source also confirmed that there were no exchanges involved in the release, the outlet noted.

The Israeli military said earlier Friday that most of those abducted to Gaza were still alive.

“The majority of the hostages are alive. There were also dead bodies that were taken… to the Gaza Strip,” an army statement said.

The military said more than 20 hostages were minors, while between 10 and 20 were over the age of 60.

There are also between 100 and 200 people considered missing since the Hamas attacks, the army added.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas after the Islamist militant group launched a massive attack from the Gaza Strip on October 7, killing at least 1400 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli officials.

In response, Israeli war planes have levelled entire city blocks in Gaza in preparation for a ground invasion they say is coming soon.

More than 3785 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have died in the bombing, according to the latest toll from the Hamas-run health ministry.

— NY Post

Grim sign Gaza invasion imminent

Israeli troops and tanks have amassed near the border amid fears of a full-scale ground invasion.

Increased military activity was reported in the area with footage showing tanks on the move near Gaza around sunrise local time.

It comes after Israel‘s defence chief Yoav Gallant told troops they will soon see Gaza “from the inside.”

The minister wished the men luck as he said “there is no forgiveness” for the Hamas‘ horror attack.

He told the soldiers: “There is no forgiveness for this thing. Only total annihilation of Hamas organisation, terror infrastructures, everything that has to do with terrorists and whoever sent them.

“It will take a week, it will take a month, it will take two months, until we eliminate them.

“You are not alone in battle. We trust you and count on you.

“Carry on training while there is time, get organised, be prepared, the command will come. Thanks guys, we count on you, good luck.

“And anyone who now sees Gaza from a distance will soon see it from inside, I promise you.”

Aid trucks waiting to cross into Gaza

Trucks of international aid for Gaza should be rolling “in the next day or so”, the United Nations said Friday, with Palestinians desperate for lifesaving supplies after sustained bombing from Israel, still reeling from its bloodiest-ever attack.

Some 175 lorries crammed with vital medicines, food, and water stretched into the distance at the Rafah crossing with Egypt, which has removed concrete roadblocks and is scrambling to repair the route into besieged Gaza — the only one not controlled by Israel.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas after the Islamist militant group launched an unprecedented raid from the Gaza Strip on October 7, killing at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians shot, mutilated or burned to death, according to Israeli officials.

Hamas gunmen also kidnapped some 200 hostages including foreigners from around two dozen countries ranging from Paraguay to Tanzania. The majority are still alive, the Israeli army said Friday.

In response, Israeli bombers have levelled entire city blocks in Gaza in preparation for a ground invasion they say is coming soon. The Hamas-run health ministry said 4,137 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have died in the onslaught.

Israeli jets pounded more than 100 Hamas targets in Gaza overnight, the army said, with AFP reporters hearing loud explosions and witnessing plumes of smoke billowing from the northern Gaza Strip.

Embracing frontline soldiers and clad in body armour, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged them to “fight like lions” and “win with full force”.

Fists clenched and voice raised, Netanyahu told cheering troops: “We will deal harsh blows to our enemies in order to achieve victory.” Defence Minister Yoav Gallant told some of the tens of thousands of personnel preparing the ground invasion that “the order will come soon.”

‘Beyond catastrophic’

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited the Rafah crossing to personally oversee preparations, as workmen operating bulldozers on the Gazan side battled to make the road passable.

A spokesman for UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths told reporters in Geneva a first delivery was due “in the next day or so”, following a deal clinched by US President Joe Biden to allow 20 trucks of aid for civilians.

Medicine, water purifiers and blankets were being unloaded at El Arish airport near Gaza, an AFP reporter saw, with Ahmed Ali, head of the Egyptian Red Crescent, saying he was getting “two to three planes of aid a day”.

But World Health Organisation emergencies director Michael Ryan said Biden’s 20-truck deal was “a drop in the ocean of need” and that 2,000 trucks were required.

The UN says more than one million of Gaza’s 2.4 million people are displaced, with the humanitarian situation “beyond catastrophic” and deteriorating daily.

Refugees from northern Gaza told harrowing tales of bombs, profiteering, and extreme temperatures as whole families trekked on foot to flee the violence.

Mother of seven Fadwa Al-Najjar walked for 10 hours with her family from northern Gaza to reach a UN camp in the southern town of Khan Yunis, saying she saw cars hit by a strike on the road just in front of them.

“We saw bodies and limbs torn off and we just started praying, thinking we were going to die,” she said.

‘It’s unimaginable’

On the other side of the conflict, the full horror of what Israel suffered on October 7 and following days was still emerging, as traumatised residents recounted their stories.

Shachar Butler, a security chief at the Nir Oz kibbutz, where Hamas militants killed or kidnapped a quarter of the 400 residents, recalls more than a dozen gunmen spraying bullets indiscriminately and lobbing grenades at homes.

“It’s unimaginable,” the 40-year-old told AFP as part of a trip organised by the Israeli military.

“Anytime someone tried to touch my window, I shot him,” he said. “The people who came out got kidnapped, killed, executed, slaughtered.” Butler estimated as many as 200 militants attacked the kibbutz, entering from three sides before going house-to-house. Homes there were still charred with burned personal belongings strewn everywhere.

Israel says around 1,500 Hamas fighters were killed in clashes before its army regained control of the areas under attack.

‘45 of us gone’

During a rare Oval Office address, Biden vowed the United States would take the lead in supporting Israel and Ukraine, saying he would make an “urgent” request to Congress for aid later Friday.

Fresh from a whirlwind trip to Israel this week, Biden is hoping to staunch the possibility of a wider Middle East war.

The United States has moved two aircraft carriers into the eastern Mediterranean to deter Iran or Lebanon’s Hezbollah, both Hamas allies, from getting involved.

The conflict has inflamed passions across the region, with protests planned in several countries and Hamas urging demonstrators to target Israeli and US embassies.

Both sides traded blame for deadly strikes, the latest coming at a church compound in Gaza late Thursday.

The Hamas-controlled interior ministry said several people sheltering at the church were killed and wounded, blaming an Israeli strike.

The Israeli army acknowledged a wall of the church had been damaged in one of its air strikes targeting a “command and control centre belonging to a Hamas terrorist” and said the incident was “under review”.

“This place is dedicated for praying, a place of love and peace,” said witness Abu Khalil Jahshan. “There is no safe place here in Gaza.” Meanwhile, Gaza students in Egypt told AFP of their nightmare watching events unfold from far away.

Haya Shehab, 21, learned from an Instagram post that her extended family’s home had been bombed, killing 45 people — dozens of them cousins.

“Just like that, 45 of us gone,” said Shehab, who studies at a private university in Cairo


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By Rahul

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