‘Relieved beyond words’: Elderly women in poor health freed by Hamas

The women were handed over to Red Cross workers at the Egyptian border but more than 200 are believed to still be prisoners in under-siege Gaza. Hamas has released two more hostages, with the British daughter of one of the women flying to Israel after saying she’s relieved beyond words.

Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, and Nurit Cooper, 79, were taken to the Rafah crossing into Egypt and put into ambulances.

Hamas said it released them on humanitarian and “poor health grounds”, but their husbands are still being held prisoner.

Israel-Gaza war – latest updates

The group released images of masked gunmen giving the women food and drink and leading them to the handover point, where Red Cross workers met them.

More than 200 people were kidnapped during the Hamas attack on Israel earlier this month but only four have been freed – the other two being a US mother and daughter last week.

Sharone Lifschitz, who lives in London, confirmed her mother was released on Monday evening and is flying out to meet her.

“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,” she said.

The two women and their husbands – aged 83 and 84 – were snatched from their homes in Nir Oz, near the Gaza border, as Hamas began its massacre on 7 October.

Ms Lifschitz told Times Radio her parents had complex health needs and that her father, Oded, had high blood pressure the night before the attack.

The grandson of Yocheved Lifshitz said his grandparents had spent years helping sick Gazans.

“They are human rights activists, peace activists for all their life,” said Daniel Lifshitz.

“For more than a decade, they took… sick Palestinians from the Gaza Strip – not from the West Bank, from the Gaza Strip – every week from the Erez border to the hospitals in Israel to get treatment for their disease, for cancer, for anything.”

With many hostages still held prisoner, the US is understood to have asked Israel to delay its ground invasion so more can be freed.

A senior Hamas leader told Sky News all civilians among the hostages would be released if Israel reduced the intensity of bombing 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,” said Khaled Meshaal.

“We need the right conditions to allow them to be released.”

Despite the worsening humanitarian situation, President Biden said talk of a ceasefire-for-hostage deal was premature.

“We should have those hostages released and then we can talk,” the US leader told reporters on Monday.

The UN Security Council is, however, expected to vote on a resolution today calling for “humanitarian pauses” in order to allow aid into Gaza.

There has been a slew of diplomatic visits to Israel in recent days as fears grow that the war could spread.

The latest to visit and meet Prime Minister Netanyahu on Tuesday will be France’s President Macron, following the Dutch leader’s visit on Monday.


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