GAZA STRIP — Gaza’s Hamas rulers said yesterday that they had freed two more women abducted from Israel during the October 7 attacks.
The Palestinian Islamist group’s military wing said the two elderly women, identified as Yocheved Lifshitz and Nurit Cooper, had been freed for “compelling humanitarian” reasons following mediation by Qatar and Egypt.
Their husbands were still in captivity, among more than 200 hostages still held by Hamas, according to Israeli media.
Four women have now been freed in three days.
A source close to the mediators confirmed the release and said the women were Israelis.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said it had also helped with the case and the transportation of the women out of Gaza.
The pair were taken to the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, according to Israeli media.
“We hope they will soon be back with their loved ones,” the ICRC said on X, formerly Twitter.
The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed the two women’s identities, aged 85 and 79, saying they lived at the Nir Oz kibbutz.
“They are currently heading toward a medical centre in Israel specially prepared for their arrival,” his office said, thanking the Red Cross for its help in freeing the women.
“I can confirm that my mother Yochi (Yocheved) Lifshitz was one of two hostages released to the Red Cross this evening,” her daughter Sharone Lifschitz said in a statement.
Images on Egyptian television station Alqahera News, which is close to the intelligence services, showed the two women getting into ambulances, one with the help of paramedics.
Each woman was then shown lying on a stretcher in separate ambulances, surrounded by first-aiders and ICRC personnel.
American mother and daughter Judith and Natalie Raanan were freed on Friday, with the militants also citing humanitarian reasons and efforts by Qatar and Egypt.
Israel on Monday increased the number of confirmed hostages to 222 people seized when Hamas gunmen crossed the border and attacked kibbutz communities, towns and military bases in southern Israel.
Israeli officials say they killed 1,400 people in the nation’s worst-ever attack.
Israel hit back with a blistering bombing campaign which Gaza’s Hamas-run health authority says has now killed more than 5,000 people.
The hostages — among them babies, children, pregnant women, soldiers and many foreign nationals — have become a major issue for the Israeli government as it justifies its bombardment of “Hamas targets” in Gaza.
But the spiralling Palestinian death toll has drawn international concern.
The army says several ground raids into Gaza in recent days have recovered the bodies that were snatched from inside Israel then later dumped.
Military spokesman Daniel Hagari on Monday said infantry and tank raids into Gaza during the night had sought to “locate and search for any information available about the hostages”.
When asked later about reports that more hostages could be released, Hagari refused to comment, saying only: “We are doing all that we can to free all hostages no matter the nationality.” — AFP