June 22, 2024

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‘I went through hell,’ says 85-year-old Israeli hostage freed by Hamas

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Beaten with a stick, thrown over a motorcycle like a sack and dragged into a subterranean network of tunnels inside Gaza, 85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz spent 16 days as a Hamas hostage.

Released suddenly, alongside Nurit Cooper, 69, Lifshitz is one of four hostages — out of more than 200 taken into Gaza by Hamas militants in the October 7 attack — who have emerged, seemingly in good health, in a process mediated by Qatar, Egypt and the International Committee of the Red Cross. She is the first to speak publicly of her ordeal.

Hours after her release, she stood outside Ichilov Hospital in central Israel, and told her story, both surreal and sordid, to a bank of reporters.

“I went through a hell we never thought we could reach,” she said. “I went through a nightmare we couldn’t have imagined.”

At least 1,400 civilians and soldiers were killed in the devastating October 7 assault by Hamas militants based in Gaza, according to Israeli authorities, the worst attack in the history of the Jewish state. Israel responded by launching a massive aerial bombardment of Gaza, which has killed at least 5,087 people so far, local health authorities said, and levelled huge sections of the Palestinian enclave.

For Lifshitz, the scenes keep repeating in her head. She told of the Hamas fighters who broke in and rampaged through the Kibbutz Nir Oz where she lived, killing and kidnapping “old and young, with no distinction”. She and her husband, a peace activist, were snatched from their beds. He is still held hostage.

“When they took me, they put me on a motorcycle, legs on one side, head on the other,” she recalled.

Two motorcycles flanked the one she was on, and all three raced through the fields, just a few kilometres from Gaza’s border with Israel. “They didn’t break my ribs, but it hurt a lot, making it difficult to breathe,” the…

2023-10-24 09:56:29

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