Our live coverage of the conflict in Israel and Gaza has moved here.
The US is allowing Israel to make its own calls on timing and strategy in its war with Hamas, but US President Joe Biden did weigh in on the matter during his visit with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the war cabinet in Tel Aviv earlier this week, according to a senior administration official.
"He asked some hard questions" about what was being planned and what the effects would be, the official told CNN, adding: "We're not directing the Israelis, the timeline is theirs — their thinking, their planning."
As CNN reported Friday, the US and its allies have been urging Israel to be strategic and clear about its goals if and when it launches a ground invasion of Gaza, warning against a prolonged occupation and placing a particular emphasis on avoiding civilian casualties, according to US and Western officials.
The number of people killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza overnight has reached at least 29, the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Interior in Gaza said on Saturday.
The ministry said at least 14 people were killed in airstrikes on Jabalia in northern Gaza.
Hamas released US citizens Judith Tai Raanan and her 17-year-old daughter, Natalie Raanan, who were kidnapped during the initial attack against Israel nearly two weeks ago, according to the office of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They are now in the care of the Israel Defense Forces, spokesperson Daniel Hagari said Friday.
The US welcomes the release and "shares in the relief that their families, friends and loved ones are feeling," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a briefing Friday. US President Joe Biden said he is “overjoyed” the mother and daughter will “soon be reunited with their family." He spoke with the released hostages by phone Friday, according to the White House.
A US official confirmed that there are more American hostages still being held by Hamas. Israel previously told the US government that some Americans held hostage by Hamas are known to be alive, a US official told CNN.
Here are other headlines you should know:
- Hospital trouble: Seven hospitals and 21 primary care health centers in Gaza are "out of service," and 64 medical staff have been killed as Israel continues its airstrikes, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Ministry of Health said Friday. Also, the administration of Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza says the Israeli army has contacted them demanding the immediate evacuation of the hospital in preparation for a nighttime airstrike.
- On the ground developments: The Israel Defense Forces are preparing for the "next stages" in the fight against Hamas as the conflict continues, IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari said Friday. Several people have been injured in clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces in several areas in the occupied West Bank on Friday, according to a Palestinian Red Crescent Society statement.
- Rafah crossing: Blinken said Friday he expects to see the Rafah border crossing open for humanitarian aid to Gaza soon. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres emphasized the critical importance of delivering aid to the Gaza Strip, saying the vehicles carrying supplies "are not just trucks — they are a lifeline." And Biden told reporters at the White House Friday that trucks carrying much-needed humanitarian aid should enter Gaza “within the next 24-48 hours,” after delays prevented the convoy from delivering supplies via the critical Rafah crossing from Egypt to Gaza as scheduled Friday.
- More aid: Iran warned the US about the consequences of sending weapons to Israel, saying it would further complicate the situation in Gaza, according to Iran's state-aligned news outlet Tasnim. The comment comes as Biden's administration requested more than $105 billion in supplemental funding from Congress Friday, to provide security and humanitarian assistance for the conflicts in Ukraine and Israel, among other key US priorities. Also, another plane carrying World Health Organization medical supplies for Gaza landed in Egypt’s Al-Arish Airport on Friday morning, the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean said on X. Additionally, Guterres wants to ensure the UN's Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has enough fuel to distribute humanitarian aid shipments by truck to Gaza, deputy UN spokesman Farhan Haq said Friday.
- Evacuations: About 100,000 civilians have been evacuated from their homes so far in northern and southern Israel, according to the Israeli Ministry of Defense.
- Protests: Protests against Israel’s siege of Gaza are taking place all throughout cities in the Middle East on Friday. Hundreds of protesters gathered near downtown Cairo's Tahrir Square in support of Palestinians on Friday, CNN journalists witnessed. Several hundred people protested in Beirut to denounce the Israeli offensive on Gaza. Protesters waved the Palestinian and Lebanese flags, along with the flags of Hezbollah and its political ally, the Amal Movement. And in Yemen, protesters marched on Friday to condemn Israel's offensive in Gaza, the official Houthi news agency SABA reported on Friday.
- International input: Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib is asking Israel to declare a 48-hour ceasefire, telling CNN "then we will know exactly who is starting what." Also, Biden spoke Friday morning with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, following up on humanitarian assistance plans agreed to earlier this week in Tel Aviv and discussing hostage relief efforts, the White House said. And Blinken on Friday would not say outright whether he believes Israel has respected the laws of war in its actions toward Gaza.
The Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza received three evacuation orders on Friday, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.
Earlier on Friday, the hospital's administration said the Israeli army had contacted them, demanding the immediate evacuation of the hospital in preparation for a nighttime airstrike.
The Israel Defense Forces called the Palestinian Red Crescent three times between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. local time on Friday, its director general, Marwan Jilani, told CNN on Friday.
"It was the same threat, it was 'evacuate immediately,'" Jilani said.
Jilani said the hospital had received evacuation orders in the past, but emphasized the ones on Friday seemed "really serious."
Al-Quds Hospital currently houses more than 400 patients and approximately 12,000 displaced civilians who have sought refuge there as a safe haven, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.
Uri Raanan, the father of Natalie Raanan, one of the American hostages released Friday by Hamas, told reporters Friday evening during a news conference he spoke with his daughter earlier in the day and said she was in a good state.
"I spoke with my daughter earlier today. She sounds very good, she looks very good. She was very happy. And she's waiting to come home," Uri Raanan said while speaking outside his house near Chicago.
He said his daughter's mother has a "little scratch on her hand," but said she didn't otherwise report any injuries.
"Hopefully, I’m going to see them next week," Uri Raanan said, noting his daughter's birthday is Tuesday.
"We're going to celebrate her birthday in my home," Raanan said.
Raanan said he first found out about their release when he started receiving photos from Israeli television stations. The Israel Defense Forces called him, saying they were going to meet his daughter and her mother and would call him back, he said.
After the IDF met the mother and daughter, Raanan was called and he was able to speak with his daughter over the phone, he said.
"She told me ... she was very good," he said, adding that when he first sees her "I'm going to hug her and kiss her and it's going to be the best day of my life."
Raanan said he "did not sleep at night" during the days of uncertainty while his daughter and Judith Tai Raanan were being held hostage.
Raanan spoke by phone to both Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and US President Joe Biden Friday following the release.
“I thanked him for his concern, for his help with the release of them. He was very, very nice,” Raanan said.
His current wife, Paola, said they are eager to have her back home.
“I love Natalie so much,” she said. “I have faith in the world. I have faith in peace.”
Asked if he had any advice for other families waiting for news about the loved ones who are still held hostage, Raanan responded: “I say pray and hope for good.”
About 1.4 million people have been displaced in Gaza, and more than 544,000 are sheltering in 147 UN-designated emergency shelters that are in "increasingly dire conditions," according to a statement Saturday by the United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
The number of the displaced constitutes more than 60% of Gaza’s population of about 2 million people.
OCHA stressed that the electricity blackout and ban on fuel imports into the strip have “devastating consequences” on the health care system and access to clean water.
“Increasing water consumption from unsafe sources elevates the threat of infectious disease outbreaks,” OCHA said.
In a statement earlier on Friday, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) also warned of the dire conditions in the strip and said that 16 of UNRWA’s staff have lost their lives over the last 12 days.
US President Joe Biden told reporters at the White House Friday that trucks carrying much-needed humanitarian aid should enter Gaza “within the next 24-48 hours.”
CNN's Donald Judd contributed reporting to this post.
The brother of Natalie Raanan, one of the American hostages released Friday by Hamas, says she is likely to return to the US within the next few days.
“We have heard tentatively that she might be coming back to Chicago sometime early next week,” Ben Raanan told CNN on Friday.
Natalie Raanan and her mother, Judith Tai Raanan, are currently in the care of the Israel Defense Forces, according to the IDF.
Their freedom came so suddenly, Ben Raanan said, he heard about it through the media.
“This all moved so quickly, I was getting texts from reporters I met with saying this happened,” Ben Raanan said. “I believe it's because the government didn't want to call us before it had been confirmed.”
Raanan said his joy at the release is tempered by the continued suffering of so many in the conflict, including the families of 10 Americans who remain unaccounted for.
“There are families all over in Gaza and in Israel that are experiencing a loss that I can't even imagine,” Raanan said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country will continue working to return all hostages following the release of two American hostages who were held by Hamas Friday.
“Two of our hostages are home. We will not ease the effort to bring back all abductees and those missing. Simultaneously, we keep fighting until a victory is reached,” Netanyahu said in a statement posted to social media on Friday.
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Daniel Hagari announced Friday that the two released American hostages, Judith and Natalie Rannan, are now in the care of the IDF.