The US government has asked Israel to delay its ground invasion of Gaza in a bid to free more hostages that were captured by Hamas – and to help aid enter into the war-torn strip, according to insiders.
More than 200 people are believed to be kidnapped by the terrorists, and on Friday, two Americans were freed from Gaza amid the escalating conflict.
A source who spoke to CNN said: ‘The [administration] pressed Israeli leadership to delay because of progress on the hostage front.’
On Saturday, when asked if he would be encouraging Israel to delay the imminent ground invasion, Joe Biden responded: ‘I’m talking to the Israelis.’
Natalie Shoshana Raanan, 17, and her mother Judith Tai Raanan, 59, arrived back in Israel late on Friday, the Israeli government confirmed, having left Gaza via an Egyptian-controlled crossing.
Palestinian people conduct a search and rescue operation under the debris of a destroyed building after the Israeli airstrike in Deir al-Balah
Judith Tai Raanan and her daughter Natalie Shoshana Raanan arrived back in Israel late on Friday, the Israeli government confirmed
The Raanans walked out of Gaza without obvious visible physical injuries, getting out of a car and then being surrounded by Red Cross staff, before driving away in a vehicle operated by the humanitarian gruop.
They are now receiving medical treatment, the governor of Illinois said, without providing details of their condition. The deal to free the pair was brokered by Qatar.
Anthony Blinken, the Secretary of State, said Hamas is still feared to be holding 10 Americans hostage.
The Secretary of State revealed the number still missing during a press conference where he announced the release of Judith and Natalie Raanan.
Blinken said he had no further information to offer on the ‘status or condition’ of the Americans still believed to be in Hamas custody following the October 7 terror attacks.
‘I can’t speak publicly about the details of these efforts, and I know you understand that, but the urgent work to free every single American, to free all other hostages continues – as does our work to secure the safe passage out of Gaza for the Americans who are trapped there,’ he said.
‘In this particular instance, I want to thank the Government of Qatar for their very important assistance.’
Jeremy Bash, former CIA chief of staff, said Qatar was valuable as an intermediary because Hamas’ political leadership works and lives out of Qatar and Turkey.
‘When there has been a need to get messages to Hamas in the past, usually Qatar is one of the go-betweens,’ said Bash.
Bash said Judith and Natalie Raanan will likely be carefully debriefed by the IDF and the Israeli security agency Shin Bet about any information they heard from their time in captivity.
A young boy paints on a wall next to photos of Israelis missing and held captive by Hamas Militants in Tel Aviv on October 21
On Saturday, when asked if he would be encouraging Israel to delay the imminent ground invasion, Joe Biden responded: ‘I’m talking to the Israelis’
That could include intelligence about other hostages and Hamas’ communication tactics, he told NBC.
‘This is going to be very actionable intelligence.’
Abu Ubaida, a spokesman for Hamas’ armed wing the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, said the mother and daughter were released ‘for humanitarian reasons’ in response to Qatari mediation efforts.
In a defiant statement, Abu Ubaida said the move would ‘prove to the American people and the world that the claims made by Biden and his fascist administration are false and baseless.’
Israel responded to the Hamas massacre and hostage crisis by pounding Gaza with air strikes, killing more than 4,000 people according to Hamas, and has said it will act to free the hostages while wiping out the terror group.
Israeli tanks and troops are massed near the perimeter of the enclave for an expected ground invasion, calling on Palestinians to evacuate the north of Gaza, where it says Hamas is dug in.
Israel has also said there will be no end to its full blockade of the enclave unless Israeli hostages are freed.
Hamas says it has some 200 hostages and that 50 more are held by other armed groups in the enclave.
The group claimed more than 20 hostages have been killed by Israeli air strikes, but has not given any further details.
A “Shabbat Dinner” table set up with memorial candles on the table outside the Tel Aviv museum plaza, with 200 empty seats, representing the hostages and missing people
Israel’s military has said it is striking Hamas members and installations, but does not target civilians, and warned it plans to step up airstrikes ahead of the ‘next stages of the war’
Palestinians have been pulling survivors and dead bodies out from under their collapsed homes every day for two weeks
With Israel’s war on Hamas into its sixteenth day, relentless bombing has scarred Gaza, which is one of the world’s most densely-populated areas at 28 miles long with a population of 2.3million.
Palestinians have been pulling survivors and dead bodies out from under their collapsed homes every day for two weeks, with pictures today showing gutted buildings in areas from the north to the very south of the enclave.
Israeli aircraft released leaflets as a warning for Gazans to move south or face death, with residents claiming they threatened that ‘whoever chooses not to evacuate would likely be designated as a member’ or ‘accomplice’ of a terrorist organization.
‘Whoever chooses not to leave north Gaza to the south of Wadi Gaza might be identified as an accomplice in a terrorist organization,’ the leaflets said.
Although Israel has previously warned Palestinians to move south, it had not previously told them they could be identified as ‘terrorist’ sympathizers if they did not.