Yocheved Lifshitz, freed by Hamas on Monday, spoke to reporters Tuesday morning, saying her capture was brutal, yet she thanked one of her captors with a handshake upon release, acknowledging the decent treatment she received later on.
Lifshitz, taken away with her husband Oded, 83, from their Nir Oz kibbutz home near the Gaza border, was separated from him during the ordeal. As of Tuesday, Oded was still unaccounted for.
Hamas, which Israel, the U.S., and many other countries classify as a terrorist group, let go of 85-year-old Lifshitz and Nurit Cooper, 79, citing health reasons on Monday night. Despite this, the group continues to detain over 200 people following its assault in southern Israel on October 7.
Israeli authorities report over 1,400 lost lives due to the group’s initial onslaught and the continuous rocket fire from Gaza. On the flip side, Gaza’s health units, under Hamas control, claim Tuesday that Israeli airstrikes have resulted in over 5,700 casualties, a count Israel contests.
Yocheved Lifshitz and Oded, her husband, are well-known advocates for human rights, dedicating time to a community group that helps transport injured Palestinians to nearby hospitals. A recent clip capturing Yocheved’s release by Hamas on Monday showed her greeting one of the militants with a handshake and a “shalom,” echoing a wish for peace.
During a media briefing Tuesday, with her daughter Sharone by her side, Lifshitz vividly recounted the terror of October 7, when Hamas militants “stormed, beat, kidnapped without distinction between young and old.”
“They kidnapped me and laid me on my side on a motorcycle and flew with me through the plowed fields with a rope on each side of me. During this time, the jewelry was taken off my body,” said Lifshitz, looking weak and sitting in a wheelchair.
She mentioned how the attackers breezed past the electric fence meant to shield her kibbutz, a barrier she pointed out was set up by Israeli officials.
Her daughter Sharone, who was translating her mom’s Hebrew words into English, told us her mom was hit with sticks by the kidnappers and taken through a vast underground tunnel network by Hamas, which she likened to a spider’s web.
The 85-year-old explained that as they were first led into the tunnels by their captors, “they said they believe the Quran and they will not harm us.”
Lifshitz noted that a medic checked in on the hostages every so often, providing necessary medicines, and described the captors as “gently” during her two-week captivity.
When questioned about the handshake with her captor, Lifshitz said they “met all our needs. They seemed ready for this. They prepared it for a long time and prepared all the needs that women and men need.”
Even with the considerate treatment, Lifshitz was candid about the hardship she faced, admitting it was tough and that it’s something that lingers in her mind: “I have everything in my memory all the time.”
Lifshitz didn’t hold back in her critique of the Israeli forces for letting the assault occur.
“We were the scapegoat. The army and the state abandoned us. They [Hamas] burned our fields, sent fire balloons, crowds came,” she shared, alluding to the smaller attacks by Hamas leading up to the major one on October 7. “The army did not take it seriously.”
The chief of Israel’s military intel has owned up to not catching and stopping the harsh Hamas strike, which, according to some experts, was a long time in the making, almost orchestrated in plain sight by the militants.