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Crushed with a stick, thrown over a bike like a sack and dragged right into a subterranean community of tunnels inside Gaza, 85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz spent 16 days as a Hamas hostage.
Launched out of the blue, alongside Nurit Cooper, 69, Lifshitz is certainly one of 4 hostages — out of more than 200 taken into Gaza by Hamas militants within the October 7 assault — who’ve emerged, seemingly in good well being, in a course of mediated by Qatar, Egypt and the Worldwide Committee of the Pink Cross. She is the primary to talk publicly of her ordeal.
Hours after her launch, she stood outdoors Ichilov Hospital in central Israel, and instructed her story, each surreal and sordid, to a financial institution of reporters.
“I went via a hell we by no means thought we may attain,” she stated. “I went via a nightmare we couldn’t have imagined.”
No less than 1,400 civilians and troopers have been killed within the devastating October 7 assault by Hamas militants based mostly in Gaza, based on Israeli authorities, the worst assault within the historical past of the Jewish state. Israel responded by launching an enormous aerial bombardment of Gaza, which has killed at the least 5,087 folks to this point, native well being authorities stated, and levelled enormous sections of the Palestinian enclave.
For Lifshitz, the scenes preserve repeating in her head. She instructed of the Hamas fighters who broke in and rampaged via the Kibbutz Nir Oz the place she lived, killing and kidnapping “young and old, with no distinction”. She and her husband, a peace activist, have been snatched from their beds. He’s nonetheless held hostage.
“Once they took me, they put me on a bike, legs on one facet, head on the opposite,” she recalled.
Two bikes flanked the one she was on, and all three raced via the fields, only a few kilometres from Gaza’s border with Israel. “They didn’t break my ribs, however it harm loads, making it tough to breathe,” the aged lady stated.
Somebody robbed her of her watch and jewelry. She guessed they have been briefly held within the southern Gaza city of Abasan Al-Kabira. After that, she has no concept.
Taken underground, her captors guided her for 2 or three hours via a “spider net of tunnels”, finally rising into a big corridor with 25 different captives. They have been separated once more, with the hostages organized by the kibbutz that they’d been snatched from.
The scenario improved after that. They have been visited by a health care provider each different day, who gave them remedy they wanted, swapping out related ones for these not accessible in Gaza.
“They took excellent care of the wounded,” Lifshitz stated, describing one one that had been injured within the legs and arms throughout their kidnapping. “It was heartbreaking to see that.”
Their captors took care of their hygiene, even cleansing their bathrooms. “They have been nervous concerning the outbreak of one thing,” she stated.
They acquired a pitta bread with white cheese and cucumber every day.
In a video staged round their launch and handover to a Pink Cross consultant, she and Nurit seem dazed, however unharmed. Clothed within the lengthy clothes worn by older Palestinian ladies, they’re provided biscuits and a drink from masked Hamas fighters, with the handover captured on digicam by the militant group.
In a clip that has since gone viral on Arab tv channels throughout the area, she then reaches again to shake the hand of certainly one of her armed captors. Her description of the care her captors took of her have additionally been performed nonstop on some Arab information channels, alongside her criticism of the Israeli authorities’s failure to guard her and her household.
“The lack of expertise by the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] and Shin Guess [the intelligence service] harmed us badly,” stated Lifshitz, including that the navy ignored indicators from weeks in the past, when Palestinian crowds massed on the fences.
“Within the navy, they didn’t take it significantly,” she stated. “We have been the scapegoat of the federal government.”
Extra reporting by Raya Jalabi in Beirut