As the Israeli Armed Forces intensify attacks in Gaza and the number of victims grows after a “bloody night”, details of what happened to the people captured in the surprise Hamas attack on the 7th are beginning to come to light, as in which the first hostages, of around 200, are allowed to return home.
After 17 days in captivity, two elderly Israeli women, Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, and Nurit Cooper, 79, were released on Monday night (23) for “health and humanitarian reasons”, said Hamas, which posted on social media a video that records the moment they are handed over to Red Cross employees.
The two were released from Gaza to Egypt and then transferred to the Israel Defense Forces, who took them to a hospital in Tel Aviv, where doctors said they were in good health. The Israeli government estimates that at least another 220 hostages, including the husbands of the two freed women, are still in Hamas custody.
:: Lula says that Hamas’ actions do not justify Israel killing innocent people and defends Palestine’s right to territory ::
Lifshitz held a press conference outside the hospital, sitting in a wheelchair. She talked about her captivity, said that she went through a vast network of tunnels and that she was attacked in the first moments of the kidnapping, but well treated after she arrived in captivity.
“We went through hell we never imagined. They (kidnappers) devastated the kibbutz,” said Lifshitz, who criticized the fence erected by Israel on the border with Gaza — “it didn’t help at all” — and accused the Israel Defense Forces of not taking seriously signs that an attack was imminent and said those kidnapped served as “scapegoats”.
According to the New York Times, at least 180 of the kibbutz’s 400 residents were killed or kidnapped. As of Monday, around 25 deaths had been confirmed by authorities.
The elderly woman says that, at the beginning of the journey, she was placed on a motorcycle, crosswise — legs on one side of the seat, head on the other —, between two kidnappers. And that they hit her with a stick. The situation hurt her and made it difficult for her to breathe. They also removed his watch and jewelry.
:: Number of deaths in the Gaza Strip exceeds 5 thousand according to Palestinian authorities; more than 2 thousand victims are children ::
She was then taken to the entrance of a network of tunnels, which she described as “a spider’s web”, where kidnapped people and kidnappers walked “kilometers” on a wet floor. The account, given in Hebrew in a low voice, was translated into English by her daughter, who was standing next to her.
After about two to three hours, according to her recollection, the group arrived at a large hall where about 25 other hostages were gathered. “They told us they believe in the Quran and would not harm us,” Lifshitz said of the kidnappers.
On the same day, she and other hostages were taken to a separate room and cared for by a doctor, who returned every two days, and a nurse, who provided medication. “The treatment we received was good,” said the elderly woman, who praised the sanitary conditions — “they cleaned the bathrooms” — and stated that they took care of all our needs. “That must be said to their credit. We ate what they ate.” According to her recollection, there was a daily meal of pita bread, cheese and cucumber.
When asked about conversations with the kidnappers, she reports that they talked about all kinds of things, but that the kidnapped people avoided making comments when the subject was politics.
The elderly women lived in kibbutz Nir Oz, attacked by Hamas on the 7th. The kibbutz was one of several villages a few kilometers from the Gaza Strip attacked by the group on the 7th. Survivors who were not kidnapped say that about a quarter of the 400 local residents were murdered.
:: Seasoning: Israel’s violent escalation in Palestine gains unrestricted support from Joe Biden ::
Last Friday (20), Hamas had released the first hostages, two Americans, mother and daughter, after Qatar’s intervention. At the time, a spokesperson for the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the release occurred “after many days of continuous communication” and that dialogue on the release of other hostages would continue.
700 dead in 24 hours in Gaza
Israel intensified attacks from Monday to Tuesday and says it has hit hundreds of targets in the Gaza Strip, including a seaside refugee camp housing tens of thousands of displaced people. Gaza’s Health Ministry says the attacks have killed more than 700 people in the past 24 hours, describing the episode as a “bloody night.”
Palestinian officials say that since the start of the conflict, Israeli strikes have killed at least 5,791 people in Gaza and injured more than 16,297. Israel claims that more than 1,400 people were killed on its side and more than 5,400 were injured.
The Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed this Monday that Michel Nisenbaum, a 59-year-old Brazilian who lives in Israel and has Israeli citizenship, has been missing since the 7th. He is the only Brazilian considered in this condition.
With information from the Washington Post, The Times of Israel and Folha de S.Paulo.
Editing: Vivian Virissimo