Sun. Jul 14th, 2024
alert-–-israeli-woman,-85,-whose-gesture-of-peace-towards-hamas-captors-was-seen-around-the-world-explains-why-she-did-it-despite-‘going-through-hell’Alert – Israeli woman, 85, whose gesture of peace towards Hamas captors was seen around the world explains why she did it despite ‘going through hell’

An elderly woman held hostage for 16 days by Hamas terrorists today explained why she wished them peace despite going ‘through hell.’

Footage on Monday evening showed Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, saying ‘shalom’, which means peace in Hebrew, to a Hamas gunman, and shaking his hand, before leaving with a Red Cross worker. 

Yocheved, wheelchair-bound and dressed head-to-toe in black, spoke to reporters from Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv with her daughter, British citizen Sharone Lifshitz, 52, on Tuesday. 

When asked why she shook the Hamas terrorist’s hand, she said: ‘Because they treated us very nicely.’

This is despite her admitting that the Hamas terrorists viciously attacked her community in their homes on October 7, and that she was beaten with a stick as she was being taken into Gaza. 

‘They stormed into our homes. They beat people. They kidnapped others, the old and the young without distinction,’ she said. 

On top of this, she was beaten up by the terrorists as she was carted away to Gaza: ‘The young men hit me on the way. They didn’t break my ribs but it was painful and I had difficulty breathing.’ 

Yocheved (pictured, right) went back and shook a Hamas terrorist’s hand 

Yocheved said she shook the hand of the Hamas terrorist because they ‘treated us very nicely’

Nurit Yitzhak and Yocheved Lifshitz arrive at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center after being held captive by Hamas since October 7

Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, who was released as hostage by Palestinian Hamas militants, is seen with her husband Oded, 83, who is still being held

Though much of the press conference was in Hebrew, her daughter answered several questions in English on her mother’s behalf. 

Sharone said: ‘They seemed really prepared, like they had concealed it for a long time. They took care of all the women’s needs, shampoo, conditioner.’ 

She added that her mother said it wasn’t only women who were well looked-after, but all prisoners taken by Hamas. 

‘One of the men was badly injured by a motorbike accident on the way, he was treated by paramedics. They kept the place clean, they were very concerned about them.’

‘My mum was saying she was taken on the back of a motorbike, with her legs on one side and her head on another. She was taken through ploughed fields, with men on one side and men behind her. 

‘While she was taken, she was hit with sticks until they reached tunnels. There, they walked for a few kilometres on the wet ground.’

Sharone said her elderly mother suffered from bruises and shortness of breath following the beating: ‘When I was on the bike, my legs were on one side and the rest of my body on the other side. The young men hit me on the way. They didn’t break my ribs but it was painful and I had difficulty breathing.’

She was taken into Gaza via the notorious underground tunnels used by Hamas, after her jewelry and her watch was taken off her. 

‘There are a huge network of tunnels underneath, it looked like a spiderweb.’

Sharone said that she was first taken to Abasan al-Kabira, near Kibbutz Be’eri and Khan Yunis in the south of the Gaza Strip. After that, she did not know to where she was taken.

Yocheved spoke to dozens of reporters at the Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv on Tuesday

She was returned by Hamas terrorists on Monday night

Her daughter Sharone (pictured, left) answered several questions on her behalf

She was seen in high spirits at the press conference

Yocheved was stuck in a wheelchair, following her 16-day ordeal in Hamas’ hands

Yocheved Lifshitz and Nurit Cooper were taken to a hospital shortly after they were released by Hamas 

She added, on behalf of her mother: ‘When they arrived they arrived to a large hall where about 25 hostages were gathered. After two or three hours five of them were taken into a separate room.

‘She said they were very friendly towards them, they took care of them, they were given medicine. 

‘They took care of us. They made sure that we could be clean and eat, they gave us pita bread, cucumber, hard cheese and low fat cream cheese and that was our food for the entire day.’ 

She said that each guard was assigned a prisoner, and they would talk and eat with them every day. 

On top of this, a doctor would examine the hostages every day, and provide them with any necessary medication.  

Sharone added that the terrorists were surprisingly worried about cleanliness: ‘They were very concerned with hygiene and were worried about an outbreak of something. We had toilets which they cleaned every day,” she continued.’

‘My mum is saying they told them they were Muslims and that they’re not going to hurt them.

Despite her positive attitude to the horrific situation, she admitted: ‘I went through hell, that I could not have known.’ 

She said that her watch and jewelry were taken away from her

She said ‘shalom’ to the masked gunman, the Hebrew word for peace or harmony

She said that she was disappointed by the IDF’s fence failing to prevent the attack on Israel 

She said her mother was disappointed with Israel’s lack of preparation for the Hamas attack on October 7.  

‘A swarm of people came through the fence, which cost 2.5 billion shekels (£500 million), and it didn’t help even a little bit. 

‘Three weeks ago, masses arrived at the fence. The IDF did not take it seriously. We were left to fend for ourselves. The lack of knowledge in the IDF and the Shin Bet severely affected us.

‘We were the scapegoats, they had warned us three weeks before but the masses came to our roads and burnt our fields, they sent balloons with fire and they burnt our fields – the IDF didn’t take that seriously. 

‘On Saturday morning, everything was quiet and then there was huge shelling on our community. it exploded the huge fence that was there, they opened the gates of the kibbutz and entered on masses, that was very very tough, I have all these images in my mind.’ 

Sharone said: ‘My mum is very much hoping that all the people that were with her will come back. And the story is not over until everyone comes back. 

Yocheved, along with fellow hostage Nurit Cooper, were abducted from their homes in Kibbutz Nir Oz during the October 7 massacre, while their husbands remain in Gaza as hostages. 

Yocheved, known by friends as Yochi, was kidnapped from her home alongside her husband, Oded, 83.

The elderly women have since been handed over to the Israel Defense Forces custody and are currently in Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement. 

Hamas said it released the pair for humanitarian reasons, days after freeing an American woman and her teenage daughter. 

Sharone confirmed the news of her mother’s rescue on Monday night, admitting she ‘could not put into words’ how ‘relieved’ she was.

She said: ‘I can confirm that my mother Yochi (Yocheved) Lifshitz was one of two hostages released to the Red Cross this evening. 

‘While I cannot put into words the relief that she is now safe, I will remain focused on securing the release of my father and all those – some 200 innocent people – who remain hostages in Gaza.’

Sharone told Radio 4 on Tuesday: ‘I arrived, my mum is asleep, she was given a pill so I’m yet to have a real conversation with her. 

Nurit Cooper, 79, was also handed over to the Red Cross at the Rafah crossing ‘a short time ago’ and will ‘shortly be transferred’ to Israel, an official statement said

‘My brother’s with her, my mum is okay, the nurses have been having a chat [with her], they said she’s very sharp and she’s very keen to share information to families of other hostages she was with. 

‘She seems okay. It’s really hard to know what to hope for, so much is lost. To see my mum again is an incredible thing, to hold her hand, to kiss her face and her cheek. 

‘I’m so proud of her, she’s amazing. Just the way she walked off and then came back and said “thank you” was quite incredible to me, I’ve been looking at [the video] and it’s just… it’s so her. 

‘I’m really waiting to have a bit of quality time with her.’

‘She knows a lot about other [hostages]. There’s still over 200 people there, and we must work towards the release of everybody.’

Sharone said that as happy as she is about her mother’s safe release, she is still worried about her father.  

‘My mum doesn’t know where [my father] is,’ she told Radio 4.

‘Both of them are very loving people, family people. The week before, they had over 20 people visiting. They really loved hosting family. 

Yocheved was seen meeting people at the hospital she was taken to after her 16-day ordeal

Her daughter Sharone said that despite her difficulties, she is very willing to talk about the other hostages held by Hamas

Sharone said she hasn’t yet been able to have a proper conversation with Yocheved yet

Yocheved’s husband is still being held by Hamas terrorists

‘My father was very involved in kibbutz politics. He was very involved in the rights of Palestinians, and working towards peace with our neighbours. 

‘His whole life was [dedicated to] the idea that we have to find a way to live together. He felt that it was very easy to find a way, and was very disappointed and fought very hard against this idea of occupation, of perpetual war. 

‘I hope that he’s there and that he’s being looked after. There was a doctor there, so this brings a lot of comfort to everybody.’

Ms Lifshitz, from London, had spoken to the media earlier on Monday about how she had not heard from either of her parents since Hamas’s ambush more than two weeks’ ago that left 1,400 people dead.

She described them as having complex health needs, telling Times Radio that her father had recorded high blood pressure the night before he was captured.

Ms Lifshitz shared her story with earlier this month, in the hope to spread awareness and bring her parents home.

‘My father is 83 and my mother is 85. She needs oxygen and he has a lung disease. They cannot survive on their own in this environment’, she said at the time.

‘What kind of person would do this? In my life I just cannot imagine a type of person that could do this. 

‘My father is not the enemy. He spent his retirement driving Palestinians from the border to and from the hospital. He is not the enemy. He believes in humanity in all people.’

She issued a chilling plea at the time, saying: ‘This is our moment of reckoning. It’s bigger than the Yom Kippur War, it’s bigger than 9/11. This is what Israel was founded for, so we weren’t running or hiding, or shot in our own homes and chased to our deaths. But it is happening.

‘This whole place has been erased like a little Jewish village in wartime Russia. There is no difference. It does not exist anymore.

In a clip shared of their release, Yocheved can be seen crawling out the back of a white truck, before walking towards an ambulance with the help of two officials

Yocheved can be seen talking to one of the officials as she has medical tests

Yocheved’s grandson Daniel said he was feeling ‘very emotional and happy’ of her return

‘Now is not the time to do anything but fight for the safe return of our people. Once they have returned, we can rise from the ashes. But we need to get these people home. 

‘The time is short and it is running out – they will not survive. We cannot sit here and talk about who’s done what. Not until we’ve brought them home. 

‘The British Government must do everything in their power to help the safe return of these people. We don’t want to ignite, we want to save.’ 

In another clip shared of their release, Yocheved can be seen crawling out the back of a white truck, before walking towards an ambulance with the help of two officials.

Meanwhile Nurit is lying down and wheeled in an ambulance stretcher. 

Both women appear to be without obvious physical injuries as they are checked and monitored by ICRC staff wearing vests bearing the red cross. 

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said the department welcomed the release of two further hostages, three days after an American woman and her teenage daughter were let go.

A spokeswoman said: ‘Our thoughts remain with the families of loved ones still being held captive, as they endure unimaginable anguish and worry at this time.

‘We will continue to work tirelessly with Qatar, Israel and others to ensure all hostages come home safely.’

The FCDO’s statement comes as the number of British people confirmed to have died in Hamas attacks has risen to 12. 

Qatar is seen as a key mediator in the Middle East conflict, with Doha using its ties to Hamas – a number of figures from the Gaza-ruling group’s political wing are said to live in the country – to negotiate for the release of about 220 hostages taken during the deadly assault on Israel more than two weeks ago.

Reuters reported on Monday that the US is keeping Doha in the loop of negotiations with Israel to delay its ground assault, as Washington tried to free more hostages and prepares for a wider conflict across the region to begin. 

One US official said the Biden administration, staying mindful of Doha’s role as an intermediary with Hamas, was keeping Qatari officials informed of its advice to Israel so that they are fully up-to-speed as hostage negotiations continue.

‘For now, there’s no clear roadmap or sequence of the steps towards complete de-escalation. The priority is on working to get the hostages out step-by-step,’ said a source briefed on the hostage negotiations.

Further pleas for Hamas to give up its hostages are expected to be made on Tuesday during a press conference with affected families at the Israeli Embassy in London.

It comes as Hamas is reportedly planning to release 50 hostages with dual citizenship from the Gaza Strip, sources in Gaza told Israel media on Monday.

The Red Cross has reportedly been dispatched to receive the captives who were kidnapped during the Islamist terror attack on Israel on October 7.

Qatar has taken a central role in mediating the handover which is set to take place in Khan Yunis in the south of the Gaza Strip, according to Israel TV channel i24. 

Israel has refrained from bombarding the area in order to facilitate the transfer, according to the sources in the Strip. 

IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari did not deny the report, according to The Times of Israel. An earlier report by the New York Times said that the Israeli government believe Hamas may release about 50 hostages who are dual citizens – but that a ground invasion would hinder their release.

Hamas, Qatar, Egypt, and Israel have been in talks in recent days over a proposal to release a larger group in return for a steady flow of humanitarian aid, including fuel, three officials familiar with the talks said.

But Israeli officials have also reportedly said they want all hostages released before permitting the delivery of fuel. Israeli officials have also told negotiators they believe Hamas and other militant groups could divert fuel for military purposes.

The negotiations have reached an advanced stage, but Israel hasn’t given approval for fuel to be delivered to Gaza via Egypt, according to the three officials.

Thomas White, the Gaza director of the UN agency for refugees, UNRWA, said on Monday that the humanitarian agency has only three days of fuel left for its trucks.

Distribution of aid will grind to a halt when it can no longer fuel its trucks, the UN said, meaning that hospitals in Gaza will struggle to keep working. 

‘The health system has reached the worst point in its history,’ Gazan Health Minister Ashraf al-Qudra said on Tuesday via Telegram. 

Eight of Gaza’s 24 publicly run hospitals have closed since the war’s start, according to Palestinian officials. Eight of the health centers run by the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees have also shut. 

Doctors at remaining hospitals work with limited electricity and medications.

Meanwhile, a senior Hamas leader claimed that the civilian hostages in Gaza will be freed if Israel meets the right conditions.

Khaled Meshaal, one of the key negotiators of the terrorist organisation, has said that over 200 hostages held by the group could be released if Israel reduces the intensity of the bombing in Gaza.

‘Let them stop this aggression and you will find the mediators like Qatar and Egypt and some Arab countries and others will find a way to have them released and we’ll send them to their homes,’ he told Sky News.

He said hostage releases cannot happen while Israel’s air offensive remains so intense.

Khaled Meshaal has claimed that the civilian hostages in Gaza will be freed if Israel meets the right conditions

Meshaal, one of the key negotiators of the terrorist organisation, has said that over 200 hostages held by the group could be released if Israel reduces the intensity of the bombing in Gaza

‘We want to stop the random bombardments, the total destruction, the genocide so that the al Qassam soldiers can take them from their places and hand them to the Red Cross or whoever.

‘We need the right conditions to allow them to be released.’

Meshaal repeated the claim that 22 hostages have died in Israeli airstrikes since being taken.

Hamas will not say which countries they are from but says many of the dead are Israelis.

He would also not be drawn on whether Hamas will stop hostage negotiations entirely if Israel presses ahead with a ground invasion of Gaza.

Khaled Meshaal is a powerful figure within Hamas, revered as a living martyr after surviving an Israeli attempt to assassinate him almost three decades ago. 

It comes after an Illinois teenager released on Friday by Hamas after 13 days in captivity is ‘doing very well,’ her father said, with footage showing the dramatic moment she and her mother were handed over to the Red Cross. 

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. 

The Raanans walked out of Gaza without obvious visible physical injuries, getting out of a car and then being surrounded by ICRC staff wearing vests bearing the red cross. The pair then got into a Red Cross vehicle and drove away.

They are receiving medical treatment, the governor of Illinois said, without providing details of their condition. The deal to free the pair was brokered by Qatar.

Her brother, Ben, joked that he was ‘annoyed’ because she still looked ‘like a supermodel’, despite her ordeal.

‘She’s doing good. She’s doing very good,’ said Uri Raanan, 71, who lives in the Chicago suburbs, adding that they did not discuss where she was held or her conditions in captivity. 

‘She did not tell me anything. But she told me they treat her nice, and she was doing very good.

‘I’m going to hug her and kiss her, and it’s going to be the best day of my life.’

Judith Tai Raanan and her daughter Natalie Shoshana Raanan arrived back in Israel late on Friday, the Israeli government confirmed

Natalie Raanan and her mother Judith are seen speaking to Joe Biden, in a photo released on Friday night by the US embassy in Israel

Knowing Natalie may be able to celebrate her 18th birthday next week at home with family and friends feels ‘wonderful. The best news,’ Uri Raanan said.

He said he believes Natalie and Judith to be in transit to Tel Aviv to reunite with relatives, and that both will be back in the U.S. early this week.

‘I spoke with my daughter earlier today – she sounds good, and she looks good,’ he told a press conference outside his home.

‘I spoke with President Biden. I thanked him for his concern, in releasing them. He was very nice.

‘I spoke to Governor Pritzker and he was nice.

‘And hopefully I will see them next week. Next week is Natalie’s birthday, and we will celebrate it here.’

The father said he first learnt of the possible release through Israeli television, and then received a call from the IDF.

He described the last 13 days as ‘the worst situation,’ adding that he had been kept in the dark by their captors.

‘I did not sleep at night and my head was always in Israel,’ he said.

‘Lots of phone calls, lots of TV. I’ve been glued to the tv for two weeks, hoping for good news – and finally it came.’

He added: ‘I did not lose hope. Praying, and just waiting for this moment.’

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 in which 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.  

Israeli soldiers carry the coffins of Sgt. Yam Goldstein and her father, Nadav, during their funeral in Kibbutz Shefayim

Israel have been holding funerals for those attacked in the Hamas massacre

Several memorial sites have been set up across Israel in the wake of the deadly Hamas attack on October 7 

‘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.’

He also refused to comment further on how the Raanans are doing after being handed over. 

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 that 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.

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