Israeli hostage released says she was kept in tunnels under Gaza

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(NEW YORK) — One of the two hostages released by Hamas on Monday, 85-year-old Yocheved Lifschitz, spoke with reporters from the lobby of the Tel Aviv hospital where she is being treated, saying she has “been through hell.”

Lifschitz is one of four hostages that have been released by Hamas in recent days. At least 222 hostages were taken by Hamas since Oct. 7, according to the Israeli military. Two American hostages, a mother and daughter, were released last week.

The war between Hamas and Israel began on Oct. 7. Since then, in Gaza, 5,791 people have been killed and 16,297 have been injured, according to the Palestinian Health Authority. In Israel, at least 1,400 people have died and 4,629 others have been injured in Israel, according to Israeli authorities.

Lifschitz, who spoke in Hebrew, said she was taken on the back seat of a motorcycle which sped over fields, before walking a few kilometers. Lifschitz said she then reached the entrance to a tunnel and entered a tunnel network that looked like a spider web.

“They sent balloons, they burned our fields and the IDF somehow didn’t take any of this seriously,” Lifschitz said.

“And suddenly on Saturday morning when all was quiet, there was this heavy bombardment and under that cover the mob broke through. They blew up that huge barrier on the border, opened the gates to the kibbutz and they came in in large numbers … That was very, very unpleasant and very hard … and in my memory I hold those difficult images,” Lifschitz said.

Once they were inside the tunnels, Lifschitz said the hostages were told that their captors will be provided the same living conditions as Hamas does.

She said the hostages were separated into groups and she was put in a separate room with a group of five people from her kibbutz. She said there were guards for each one of them and a medic and doctor came to care for them and brought medication if they needed it.

“They separated us in groups according to which kibbutz we came from … they provided for all our needs. They were very polite,” Lifschitz said.

The hostages slept on mattresses in underground tunnels in Gaza and were given pita bread, cheese and cucumber — the same food their captors ate, Lifschitz said.

Lifschitz said she was living in “clean” conditions with a doctor visiting her every two or three days and access to medicines if she needed any.

“They treated us well. There are many women here and all know what female hygiene means. They made sure we had all needed, they cleaned the toilets — they did, not us — they were concerned of disease spreading,” Lifschitz said.

Lifschitz said they wanted to talk about politics but she said she did not.

“They were very friendly to us,” Lifschitz said.

 

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