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'I went through hell': Freed hostage reveals details of nightmare ordeal after she was kidnapped by Hamas
25 October 2023, 07:28 | Updated: 25 October 2023, 07:30
An Israeli woman kidnapped by Hamas has shared details of the terrifying ordeal, saying: “I went through hell.”
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Yocheved Lifschitz - one of two hostages freed by Hamas on Monday - spoke from a hospital in Tel Aviv, saying: “I went through hell, that I could not have known.”
She described how she was kidnapped by Hamas gunmen on motorbikes, before being taken into a “spider’s web” of underground tunnels.
She said she was kept with other captives, sleeping on the floor in the tunnels with one guard per five hostages.
Ms Lifschitz was released last night along with Nurit Cooper, but their husbands are still being held.
She said the people who greeted her after she was taken off the motorbike told her they “believe in the Quran” and would not hurt her.
Describing the conditions, she said she was given white cheese, cucumber and pita bread to eat - the same food eaten by their captors.
She said the group seemed "really prepared" and it appeared the operation had been planned for a long time.
Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, International Hostage Negotiator and Kidnap Response Consultant Martin Richards explained how the process would have worked for the Red Cross to get Hamas to release hostages.
He told Nick Hamas would have dealt with trusted intermediaries, explaining they "very rarely would deal with governments directly as they are fearful of being trapped."
When Nick asked Mr Richards if he was surprised that one hostage who was released shook hands with her Hamas captor, the kidnap expert said he was not surprised by the gesture.
"Hostages are under an immense amount of stress, they'll go through a range of emotions during captivity, and after captivity when they're returned to their families."
Six Brits are still being held hostage by Hamas after the terrorist incursion into Israel on October 7.
Treasury minister Victoria Atkins told LBC yesterday: "Things are moving very quickly on the ground. At the moment we know there are approximately six British nationals who are missing."
Her comments come after the two elderly women were released by Hamas.
Ms Cooper and Ms Lifshitz are the third and fourth hostages to be released by Hamas, after a mother and daughter were let out on Friday evening.
Hostage Negotiator explains to LBC how Hamas were convinced to release hostages
Ms Lifshitz's daughter Sharone, who lives in London, flew to Israel to meet her mother.
"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 in a statement.
Sharone’s father, Oded Lifschitz, a veteran Israeli journalist, was captured by Hamas with along with his wife.
Hamas hostage shakes hand with militant on release
Their grandson said that the Lifschitzes were human rights activists who helped people from Gaza get medical treatment.
"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."
A spokesperson from Israel's Prime Minister's Office issued a statement following the women's release on Monday night.
"The Special Envoy for Abducted and Missing Persons updated that today (Monday) Nurit Cooper (79) and Yocheved Lifshitz (85) were released from the hands of the terrorist organisation 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."
Confirming the news earlier on Monday evening, the Red Cross said in a statement: “We facilitated the release of 2 more hostages, transporting them out of Gaza this evening.
“Our role as a neutral intermediary makes this work possible are we are ready to facilitate any future release.
“We hope that they will soon be back with their loved ones.”
Hamas has been keeping more than 200 people in total hostage since its most recent conflict with Israel started earlier this month.
It comes after US President Joe Biden suggested he may be willing to support a ceasefire in Gaza if all hostages are released.
Asked whether he would support calling a ceasefire in exchange for hostages, he said: “We should have those hostages released and then we can talk.”
Mike Katz, Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, told LBC: “The first line of anything in this sanction has to be: bring these hostages home."
“We are still talking about some British citizens, as well as Israeli citizens, who are somewhere in Gaza experiencing God knows what.
“I shudder to think if they are still alive. That has to be the first line before we actually talk about the long-term resolution which we obviously have to consider.”
It comes after American mother and daughter Judith and Natalie Raanan were freed by Hamas on Friday after the group said it was letting them go for humanitarian reasons, as part of an agreement with the Qatari government, which has significant influence with the Palestinian group.
The Israeli armed forces said that they received the Raanans "at the border of the Gaza Strip" before taking them to a military base in central Israel, where they were set to be reunited with their family members.