A British woman has spoken of her relief after her 85-year-old mother was released from Hamas captivity in Gaza following a 16-day kidnap ordeal.
Chilling footage released on Monday evening showed Yochved Lifshitz and Nurit Cooper, 79, being handed over to the Red Cross at the Rafah crossing by black-clad masked gunmen.
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.
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.’
Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, who was released as hostage by Palestinian Hamas militants, is seen with her husband Oded, 83, who is still being held
Chilling footage released on Monday evening showed Yochved Lifshitz and Nurit Cooper, 79, being handed over to the Red Cross at the Rafah crossing by black-clad masked gunmen
Yochved’s daughter, British citizen Sharone Lifshitz, 52, confirmed the news this evening, admitting she ‘could not put into words’ how ‘relieved’ she was
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
Both women were abducted from their homes in Kibbutz Nir Oz during the October 7 massacre. Their husbands remain in Gaza.
Yochved known as Yochi, was kidnapped from her home alongside her husband, Oded, 83.
Hamas said it had released the two women for humanitarian reasons, days after freeing an American woman and her teenage daughter.
Ms Lifschitz, 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 Lifschitz shared her story with MailOnline 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, 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
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 a video published by Hamas’s Qassam Brigades on Monday, 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.
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.’
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.
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.
The helipad where Nurit Cooper and Yocheved Lifshitz arrived is shown at Ichilov hospital
Officials gather to assist the two women
The Red Cross has reportedly been dispatched to receive the captives who were kidnapped during the Islamist terror attack on Israel on October 7.
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.
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.
‘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.