Yocheved Lifshitz hesitated and turned to clasp the hand of one of the masked Hamas gunmen who had held her hostage at the precise moment of her release. “Shalom,” she greeted. The handshake and the Hebrew phrase for peace were a rare gesture by the 85-year-old Israeli, who subsequently told of cruelty and kindness while held prisoner in Gaza for 16 days.
The Press Conference
At a press conference on Tuesday, Lifshitz claimed that despite displaying some brutality at first, her captors from Hamas had shown “care” and “gentleness”—a rare display of empathy amid a brutal struggle that may get even bloodier. Her remarks were seen to be a public relations victory for Hamas by several Israeli critics.
In a settlement mediated by Egypt and Qatar, Lifshitz was freed on Monday night together with Nurit Yitzhak, 79, also known as Nurit Cooper. Lifshitz turned to a Hamas fighter with an assault weapon as the two ladies were given to rescue personnel, extended her hand, and bid him goodbye with the Hebrew equivalent of the Arabic greeting for peace, salaam.
Lifshitz Take On Horror Of October 7
The grandmother told of the tragedy of October 7, when Hamas militants rampaged through southern Israel, murdering more than 1,400 people and kidnapping an estimated 220 others, including Britons, after reuniting with family at the Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv.
Lifshitz, who was in a wheelchair and spoke calmly throughout a tumultuous news conference, claimed that the assailants “went wild” after scaling a security fence. Without making a distinction, they slaughtered and abducted both young and old people.
“They killed and kidnapped both old and young with no distinction.”
She was taken to Gaza while attached to a motorbike. “As we rode, the motorcycle rider hit me with a wooden pole. They didn’t break my ribs, but it hurt me a lot in that area, making it difficult to breathe. They stole my watch and jewelry.”
This Is How Prisoners Are Treated
She was detained at Abasan al-Kabira, close to the Be’eri kibbutz, as well as another site that she was unable to identify. “Eventually, we went underground and walked for kilometers in wet tunnels, for two or three hours in a spider web of tunnels. We reached a large hall. We were a group of 25 people, and they separated us according to which kibbutz we were from.”
The convicts were given the same meals as the guards did. She said a doctor came every day and gave prescriptions and treated patients, including a captive hurt in a motorbike accident. “They were very concerned with hygiene and were worried about an outbreak of something. We had toilets, which they cleaned every day.” Lifshitz charged that Israel’s security forces overlooked information indicating that Hamas was planning an assault. “Three weeks ago, masses arrived at the fence. The IDF did not take it seriously. We were left to fend for ourselves.”
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Several Israeli media analysts called Lifshitz’s remarks a public relations disaster and faulted the Israeli government for handling the news conference.
According to Lifshitz, the entire “nightmare” keeps playing over in her head. Her 83-year-old husband, Oded, is one among the captives; it is unknown how they are doing. According to Palestinian sources, more than 5,000 civilians have perished in Gaza since Israeli forces began bombing the territory. According to the family, Lifshitz and her husband are seasoned peace and human rights activists who once transported ill Palestinians from Gaza to Israel for medical care. Sharone Lifschitz, 52, of Walthamstow in east London, claimed “there would be no return to before” in an interview with the Guardian before her mother’s release.
“The destruction is so big. My parents’ home was burned to the ground. Nothing is left, and the people we have lost will not get back. There is so much trauma, too. At my kibbutz, there is a rota for attending funerals. There are six funerals every day. We have had funerals for whole families.”
Noya Dan, a 12-year-old autistic girl who lived next door to the Lifshitz family, and her grandmother, who was 80, were discovered dead. Due to excessive blood pressure, Oded, a Palestinian journalist who advocated for Palestinian rights, was kidnapped. Journalist Sharone Lifschitz voiced worry that ordinary Palestinians, not only Hamas, were being punished as part of Israel’s reaction. Former social worker Ditza Heiman, who had been abducted from the Nir-oz kibbutz, was also freed, and her family voiced their sincere desire for her to be reunited with them.
They called on domestic and international parties to guarantee the release of all hostages and gave the Red Cross permission to assess the condition of the prisoners. They are deeply concerned about Ditza’s well-being because she is 84 years old, needs frequent medicine, and is no longer physically fit. Ditza Heiman’s family stated their sincere desire for her to have the same assistance as their longstanding neighbors and their profound worry for her welfare.
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