Two elderly women who were held hostage in Gaza have been taken to a hospital in Tel Aviv after being freed by their Hamas captors. 85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz and 79-year-old Nurit Cooper were handed over to workers from the International Committee of the Red Cross. Hamas said it had released them for humanitarian reasons.
The two women, along with their husbands, were snatched from their homes in the kibbutz of Nir Oz near the Gaza border in Hamas’s October 7 attacks on communities in southern Israel. Their husbands were not released.
Ms. Lifshitz had relied on an around-the-clock supply of oxygen before her abduction. Her husband Oded is a peace activist who’s reported to have spent his retirement driving Gazan cancer patients to hospital in Israel for treatment.
In an initial statement the Israel Prime Minister’s Office said:
The Special Envoy for Abducted and Missing Persons updated that today (Monday, October 23) Nurit Cooper (79) and Yocheved Lifshitz (85) were released from the hands of the terrorist organization Hamas.
The two were kidnapped during the murderous attack on Saturday (07.10.23) from their homes in Kibbutz Nir Oz. Amiram, the 85-year-old husband of Cooper, and Oded, the 83-year-old husband of Lifshitz, who were kidnapped along with them, are still being held by the cruel terrorist organization along with the other abductees, and we will continue to work in every way for their return.
The IDF and the security forces have worked hard in the last few days in all channels to bring about their release and to overcome the many difficulties set by Hamas.
After being handed over to the IDF forces, they are making their way at this time to a medical center in Israel that was specially organized and prepared to receive them. Their family members will be waiting for them there.
We thank Egypt for its assistance, and the Red Cross for their important role as life savers.
The Government of Israel, the IDF and the entire security establishment will continue to operate with the best of their abilities and efforts in order to locate all of the missing and return all of the abductees home.”
Hamas and other militants in Gaza are believed to be holding around 220 hostages including an unconfirmed number of foreigners and dual nationals. It released American mother Judith Raanan and her teenage daughter Natalie at the weekend.
The United States has expressed increasing concern that the escalating Israel-Gaza war will spark a wider conflict in the region, including attacks on American troops.