RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Hamas on Monday released two elderly Israeli women held hostage in Gaza as the United States asked Israel to hold off on a ground assault to negotiate the release of more hostages.
The two freed hostages, 85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz and 79-year-old Nurit Cooper, were taken out of Gaza at the Rafah crossing into Egypt, where they were put into ambulances, according to footage shown on Egyptian TV. The two women, along with their husbands, were snatched from their homes in the kibbutz of Nir Oz near the Gaza border during Hamas’ Oct. 7 rampage into southern Israeli communities. Their husbands, ages 83 and 84, were not released.
“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,” Lifshitz’ daughter, Sharone Lifschitz, said in a statement.
Lifschitz, an artist and academic in London who uses a different spelling for her name, told reporters last week that her parents were peace activists, and her father would drive to the Gaza border to take Palestinians to east Jerusalem for medical treatment.
Kindness, she said last week, could somehow save them.
“I grew up, you know, with all these Holocaust stories about how all my uncles’ lives were saved because” of acts of kindness, she said.
“Do I want that to be the story here?” she asked. “Yeah.”
Hamas apparently received nothing in exchange for the release of the two hostages, who were freed days after an American woman and her teenage daughter. Hamas and other militants in Gaza are believed to have taken roughly 220 people, including an unconfirmed number of foreigners and dual citizens.
Israeli tanks and ground forces have been massed at the Gaza border, and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told troops there Monday to keep preparing for an offensive “because it will come.”