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Hamas released 2 more elderly hostages on Monday who were being held in the Gaza Strip. The two Israeli hostages have been identified as Nurit Cooper, aged 79, and Yocheved Lifshitz, aged 85. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) facilitated the release and said that their role as a “neutral intermediary” made this possible and they would be ready for any future prospects of such releases as well.
Hamas also released a statement in which they said that the hostages are being released “for humanitarian and poor health grounds” and despite this, “the enemy refused to receive them last Friday”. Hamas also continued that even though Israel has not stopped its airstrikes and has committed “8 violations of the procedures that were agreed upon by the mediator brothers”, they have decided to release the hostages nevertheless.
The Israel-Hamas war continues to register itself as one of the bloodiest pages in the history of violence, killing more than 5,000 Palestinians and 1400 Israelis in the process. Joe Biden, U.S. President, has said that the Gaza ceasefire would only take place once all the hostages are safely returned and he will be in support of “hostages-for-ceasefire”. The U.S. has also advised Israel to withhold ground invasion in Gaza City so that more hostage negotiations can become possible as Israel continues to bombard the Gaza City with airstrikes. The health care system of Gaza has been falling apart, as nearly two-thirds have stopped working completely.
Israel-Hamas War: A pair of American hostages released by Hamas on October 20
Israel has claimed that Hamas has held around 200 people as hostages currently. On October 20, Hamas released another pair of American hostages, a mother-daughter duo, identified as Judith Tai Raanan (59) and her daughter Natalie (17) owing to Qatari and Egyptian interventions. The pair was from the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, and visited Israel in September to celebrate the Jewish holidays.
This is being considered as a “first step” on the part of Hamas as further negotiations regarding the release of other hostages are still in process. After the release, the Raanans were taken to the central part of the country where their family was waiting for them. Ben Raanan, Natalie’s half-brother, has expressed his heartfelt joy as he said that he felt an “overwhelming sense of gratitude to the large community of people around the world who have put my sister at the forefront of their thoughts, of their prayers, of all religions and all beliefs”.
What have Cooper and Lifshitz got to say?
After their release, both the hostages gave their account of the ordeal that they went through, while kept as a hostage by the Hamas group. Lifshitz has said that after the initial violence, the Hamas group showed care and “gentleness” towards them as she received proper care and was visited by a doctor every day.
Guards gave them the same food they themselves ate. In the video that showed the release of the hostages, Lifshitz could be seen turning around and gripping the hand of one of Hamas’s militants. Later, she told the media that she said “Shalom”, meaning peace, as she was departing. Cooper told the media that they were beaten by sticks as they were tied to a motorcycle while being taken through “spiderweb tunnels”.