Elderly hostage says Gaza captivity was ‘hell’

85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz said she was beaten and forced to walk for kilometers in tunnels when captured.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

One of the two elderly hostages freed Monday by Hamas gave details of her 17 days as a hostage at a live news conference Tuesday, calling her kidnapping “hell.”

Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, who was released along with 79-year-old Nurit Cooper, told of being thrown over the back of a motorcycle by one of the dozens of Hamas terrorists who took over Kibbutz Nir Oz in an invasion of over 2,500 terrorists into the Gaza envelope villages and two towns, Ofakim and Sederot, on October 7.

Speaking from Ichilov Hospital, where the two were taken for medical treatment, she said her captor “flew through the plowed fields” back to Gaza.

The terrorists stole her watch and jewelry, and mistreated her on the way to captivity, she said.

“I was lying on my side across the motorcycle, head on one side, legs on the other, and the Shabab [young Arab men] beat me with sticks. They didn’t break my ribs,” she noted, “but they hurt and it made it hard for me to breathe.”

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They were then divided into groups of kibbutz inhabitants and other Israeli residents, she said, “and they led us through tunnels for kilometers on damp ground. It’s a huge network of tunnels, it looked like a spider’s web.”

They reached a big hall, she continued, and “When we got there, they said that they were people who believed in the Koran and that no harm would come to us and we would have the same conditions they had in the tunnels.”

After about two or three hours, five from Nir Oz were put in a different room, she said, where they were treated decently and had mattresses to lie on.

“We each had a guard and a medic [was there] all the time. A doctor also came every two or three days and made sure that we would get, more or less, the same medications.”

One young kibbutznik had been badly wounded in his hands and legs, she noted, and the paramedic “sat with him every day for an hour, an hour and a half, to treat him,” and he received antibiotics until he improved.

“They were very careful regarding the sanitary conditions, that we shouldn’t God forbid get sick,” she said, noting that the guards even cleaned the bathrooms for the hostages.

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The terrorists seemed to be ready for their victims, she said.

“They prepared for a long time, they had all the things women need, men need,” she noted, including “shampoo and hair conditioner.”

Astoundingly, she said the captors were very friendly, talking with their prisoners all the time, although the Israelis, she said, told them “no politics.” They ate the same food, which consisted of a meal each day of pitot, white cheese and cucumbers.

Still, she said, “it was very hard,” and her experiences keep coming up again and again in her memory.

Lifshitz blamed the IDF for failing to prevent the attacks, calling the day of the invasion “hell.”

“They blew up the electronic fence they built specially for $2.5 billion and it didn’t help a whit. Masses invaded our homes,” she said, later adding, “The lack of knowledge of the IDF and Shabak hurt us a lot and we were the government’s scapegoat…. They sent balloons to burn our fields, and the IDF just didn’t take it seriously. And then suddenly on Saturday morning … there was a huge barrage [of rocket fire] and mobs broke in.”

Kan News reported that officials involved in public diplomacy criticized the decision to allow Lifshitz to speak live, probably due to her praise of her captors.

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“This was a mistake,” they said. “It’s not certain that someone had a discussion on this issue beforehand raised all the necessary questions. This is a public diplomacy attack.”