A day after former Israel-based NBC correspondent Martin Fletcher said two members of his wife’s family were being held hostage by Hamas in Israel, they have been released.
Israeli prime minister’s office and Fletcher confirmed the release of Judith Raanan and her daughter, Natalie, on Oct. 20, per NBC News. The mother and daughter were greeted at the Gaza border by Israeli Brig. Gen. Gal Hirsch and were then taken to a military base deeper into Israel where they were reunited with relatives, Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Daniel Hagari said.
Fletcher, a former Tel Aviv bureau chief, first shared news of his wife's family members being kidnapped during an appearance on “The 11th Hour with Stephanie Ruhle” that aired late Thursday, Oct. 19.
Fletcher, who appeared on the show to provide commentary about the Israel-Hamas war, was explaining Hamas’ use of hostages “for psychological warfare” when the discussion turned more personal.
“We talk about six degrees of separation. So Israel’s a tiny country with only one or two degrees of separation. So I just found out today that two of my wife’s family are among the hostages,” Fletcher said.
“So we know that what we’ve found out about Hamas, that they were told to kill the difficult ones and to use the rest as human shields. So this is very personal,” he continued.
Fletcher did not note how they are related to his wife.
“They’re from Evanston, Illinois. They’re Americans. They were visiting their grandmother for her 85th birthday,” he said. “And they were last seen with their hands tied, being dragged away by the Hamas terrorists.
"So it’s personal, it’s real, and nobody is really confident that it’s possible to get them back alive. Of course, everybody’s hoping.”
On Oct. 12, NBC Chicago reported that a vigil was held by Jewish community members in Evanston, Illinois, for the mother and daughter.
NBC News reported that the two fell into the clutches of Hamas after they launched a surprise terror attack on Oct. 7. That was the last day Natalie Raanan’s father heard from them.
“We fear for her. Pray for her. Hope she’s with her mom, we’re not certain of that,” Natalie Raanan’s father told NBC Chicago last week.
National Security Council Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk said on NBC News Now at about 5 p.m. E.T., that Natalie and Judith Raanan were being reunited with family “as we speak.”
“We have been in touch as a government not only with the families of Natalie and Judith but also with the families of the other missing Americans,” said McGurk, adding that President Joe Biden also spoke with Natalie Raanan’s father and Judith’s ex-husband. “We made very clear that we’re doing all we can to secure their safety, too.”
Speaking on “The 11th Hour,” Fletcher discussed the current efforts to bring the hostages back.
“(The) United States says they’re doing everything they can, using intelligence resources, whatever other resources they can bring to bear,” he said.
“Israel says hostages are No. 1 priority. But, actually, the bottom line probably is that they’re the No. 2 priority,” he continued.
“The No. 1 priority is to go into Gaza, as Prime Minister Netanyahu said, to kill the Hamas leadership and to destroy Hamas. But the hostages are in the way. So this is a really rather unheard of situation.”