A former Hamas hostage told how she lived in captivity in the group’s dungeons - ForumDaily
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A former Hamas hostage told how she lived in captivity in the group’s dungeons

Yocheved Lifshitz, a frail 85-year-old woman, one of two hostages released by Hamas on October 23, spoke about her experience of captivity, reports CNN.

Photo: IStock

Gunmen grabbed Lifshitz at her home in Kibbutz Nir Oz and took her on a motorcycle towards Gaza. It was a "painful act" during which she said she was beaten until she was bruised.

Lifshitz said she was forced to walk on wet ground and descend into an underground tunnel system in Gaza that she compared to a spider's web.

There she was met by “people who told us that we believed in the Koran” and promised “not to harm” her and the other hostages. Lifshitz's daughter Sharon, who helped translate her mother's comments to reporters outside a hospital in Tel Aviv on Oct. 24, called it a "huge network" of tunnels.

Lifshitz said she was initially grouped with 25 other people before her captors split them into a smaller group. She ended up with four other people from her kibbutz. They slept on mattresses on the tunnel floors, ate the same food as Hamas fighters and received regular medical care during her imprisonment.

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“They really took care of the sanitary side of things so we wouldn’t get sick,” Lifshitz added.

She said each of the five hostages in her group had their own doctor, and there was a paramedic present to monitor the administration of medications.

“They were very generous to us, very kind. They kept us clean,” Lifshitz said. “They took care of every detail.” There are a lot of women, they know about feminine hygiene, and everything is taken care of there.”

Lifshitz also accused the Israel Defense Forces and the Shabak intelligence service of not taking the threat from Hamas “seriously.” She said Israel's costly border fence with the Gaza Strip had done nothing to protect her community from attack.

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“The ignorance of the Shabak and the IDF hurt us greatly,” she stressed. “They gave us three weeks’ notice, burned fields, sent fireballs, and the IDF didn’t take it seriously.”

“Suddenly on Saturday morning everything became very quiet. The village was hit hard,” Lifshits said.

Soon after, “hordes” of Hamas fighters broke through the kibbutz’s “expensive” fences and continued to arrive “in droves,” she said.
“It was very, very difficult and unpleasant,” added a clearly upset Lifshitz.

Concluding her speech, Sharon said that her mother believed that “the story is not over until everyone comes back.”

Who were the hostages

Hamas released Lifshitz and her neighbor and friend Nurit Cooper, 79, on October 23, and they were later reunited with family members who rushed to their bedside in a hospital in Tel Aviv.

Lifshitz's grandson Daniel heard about her release while staying at a hotel in Eilat with other Nir Oz evacuees. He said on October 23 that news of the woman's release had sparked a wave of joy at the hotel and hope that others could soon be released.

“For this community to see these two old ladies was just amazing,” said Daniel Lifshitz, who took a helicopter from the hotel early on Oct. 24 to visit his grandmother.

More than a quarter of the Nir Oz community has died or gone missing since the October 7 attack, according to Israeli authorities.

The release of the two women brought the total number of prisoners released to four. But more than 200 hostages are believed to be trapped in the Gaza Strip, some of them in a maze of Hamas tunnels dug beneath the coastal strip. The remaining hostages include Lifshitz and Cooper's husbands, Oded Lifshitz, 83, and Amiram Cooper, 85.

Yocheved's daughter Sharon previously said she was "happy" about her mother's release but feared for her father and other detainees.

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For decades, Lifshitz and Cooper lived in the village of Nir Oz, once home to 400 people near the border with the Gaza Strip. It was one of the first towns to be attacked by Hamas militants and one of the hardest hit. Rows of houses now stand empty, their windows broken, bedrooms burned, and residents' belongings scattered everywhere. Dried blood is smeared on the beds and floors, and the walls are riddled with bullet holes.

Lifshits is one of the founders of the community. She worked as a photographer and teacher at a regional high school. Cooper was also a lifelong resident of the community and worked in early childhood education and at a local paint factory.

On October 24, Eti Uziel, head nurse at Ichilov Hospital, said both women appeared to be in "good health."

“They will stay with us tonight and tomorrow,” Uziel said. “It's a very, very emotional situation for them and their families right now, and we're happy they're here with us.”

Valuable information

Ken Gray, a professor of criminal justice at the University of New Haven and a former FBI special agent, spoke Oct. 24 about the intelligence value of Lifshitz's remarks.

“This means that there was a process of separating the hostages to make it more difficult in case the IDF came to the rescue,” he said. “This may not have been the intent, but it certainly shows that this would be a challenge for any type of rescue operation.”
Gray also noted that Lifshitz's comments may be part of Hamas' strategy.

“They want to project the message that they treat hostages very well... using this as a way to show themselves to be humane by treating hostages well. And then the IDF will look even worse when they actually enter the Gaza Strip,” he said, referring to the expected Israeli ground operation.

Remaining hostages

The latest hostage release comes amid growing international pressure on the Israeli government to secure the release of hundreds of other people still held captive in Gaza.

They include citizens of countries such as Mexico, Brazil, the United States, Germany and Thailand, as well as Israeli civilians and soldiers.

Negotiations to secure the release of a large number of hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip are ongoing. The negotiations involve the United States, Israel, Qatar, Egypt and Hamas.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas in response to the deadly Oct. 7 attacks and has cut Gaza off from water, fuel and food while carrying out airstrikes on key targets.

The continued bombing of the enclave, despite the presence of so many Palestinian civilians, has angered Arab countries and sparked condemnation in the form of public protests around the world.

The US is seeking to delay Israel's ground offensive in hopes of removing more hostages and providing aid to Gaza. However, a senior Israeli official said that "there will be no truce."

US President Joe Biden on October 23 called on Hamas to release the hostages before the start of ceasefire negotiations.

Daniel Lifshitz said the meeting with his grandmother showed him that the other hostages needed to be released as soon as possible.

“I’m telling you that we have to hurry after seeing my grandmother like this,” he said. “Time is ticking, and getting all these hostages back is now the main mission for everyone.”

As ForumDaily wrote earlier:

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