Two woman hostages identified as 85-year-old Yochved Lifshitz and Nurit Cooper, 79, have been released from Hamas captivity in Gaza after 16 days, with new footage showing the chilling moment they were handed over to the Red Cross.
The pair arrived at the Egyptian-controlled crossing late on Monday and will ‘shortly be transferred’ to Israel, an official statement said. ‘The families have been informed’, it added.
In a video published by Hamas’s Qassam Brigades, the hostages can be seen wearing identical purple robes as they walk unsteadily holding the hands of two black-clad masked gunmen.
The militants offer them snacks and drinks, while both appear terrified throughout much of the footage.
The pair are then seen walking to a vehicle where a person in a Red Cross vest waits.
As the propaganda video comes to a close, Lifshitz turns to shake the hand of one gunman as she walks away, telling him ‘Shalom’, meaning peace.
In another clip shared of their release, Yochved 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.
Two woman hostages identified as 85-year-old Yochved Lifshitz (left) and Nurit Cooper (right), 79, have been released from Hamas captivity in Gaza after 16 days, with new footage showing the dramatic moment they were handed over to the Red Cross
The women have now been handed over to the Israel Defense Forces custody and are making their way to a hospital in Israel especially set up for them, where they will be reunited with their families, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
The statement thanked Egypt ‘for its help’ and the Red Cross ‘for its important life-saving role,’ and indicates that the Israeli military also played a role in their release.
‘The IDF and security forces did much work in the last days via all channels to bring about their release and overcome the many obstacles raised by Hamas,’ the statement read.
Yochved’s daughter, British citizen Sharone Lifshitz, 52, confirmed the news this evening, 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.’
Both women were abducted from their homes in Kibbutz Nir Oz. Their husbands remain in Gaza.
Yochved known as Yochi, was kidnapped from her home alongside her husband, Oded, 83 during the barbaric attacks on October 7.
Her British daughter Sharone, 52, shared their 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.’
The Palestinian terror group said today that two hostages seized to the Gaza Strip during the October 7 attacks had been released.
The Islamist group’s military wing said in a statement the two women had been freed for ‘compelling humanitarian’ reasons following mediation by Qatar and Egypt. There was no immediate confirmation by Israeli authorities.
In a clip shared of their release, Yochved can be seen crawling out the back of a white truck, before walking towards an ambulance with the help of two officials
Yochved can be seen talking to one of the officials as she has medical tests
Meanwhile Nurit is lying down and wheeled in an ambulance stretcher
85-year-old Yochved Lifshitz has been released from Hamas captivity in Gaza after 16 days, sources have confirmed
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
Yochved’s daughter, British citizen Sharone Lifshitz , 52, confirmed the news this evening, admitting she ‘could not put into words’ how ‘relieved’ she was
The helipad where Nurit Cooper and Yocheved Lifshitz arrived is shown at Ichilov hospital
Officials gather to assist the two women
It comes as Hamas is reportedly planning to release 50 hostages with dual citizenship from the Gaza Strip, sources in Gaza told Israeli 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.
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.
So far only two hostages have been released by Hamas.
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.
‘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.
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
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.