British woman speaks of relief after hostage mother released by Hamas

A British national has spoken of her relief after her mother was released from Gaza by Hamas.

Yocheved Lifshitz and Nurit Cooper were handed over to the Red Cross at the Rafah crossing on Monday evening and will be transferred shortly to Israel.

The Foreign Office said that, while both women released by the proscribed terrorist organisation were Israelis, one of the women has family in the UK, with Mrs Lifshitz’s London-based daughter confirming her mother had been freed.

Sharone Lifschitz said: “I can confirm that my mother Yochi Lifshitz was one of two hostages released to the Red Cross this evening.

“While I cannot put into words the relief that she is now safe, I will remain focused on securing the release of my father and all those, some 200 innocent people, who remain hostages in Gaza.”

A spokeswoman for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said: “We welcome the release of a further two hostages this evening.

“Our thoughts remain with the families of loved ones still being held captive, as they endure unimaginable anguish and worry at this time.

“We will continue to work tirelessly with Qatar, Israel and others to ensure all hostages come home safely.”

The two freed hostages, Mrs Lifshitz, 85, and Ms Cooper, 79, were taken out of Gaza at the Rafah crossing into Egypt, where they were put into ambulances, according to footage shown on Egyptian TV.

The two women and their husbands were taken from their homes in the kibbutz of Nir Oz near the Gaza border during Hamas’s October 7 rampage into southern Israeli communities.

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Yocheved Lifshitz, left, and Nurit Cooper, have been released by Hamas (Hostages and Missing Families Forum/AP)

Their husbands have not been released.

Hamas said it had released the two women for humanitarian reasons, days after freeing an American woman and her teenage daughter.

Ms Lifschitz had spoken to the media earlier on Monday about how she had not heard from either of her parents since Hamas’s ambush more than two weeks’ ago that left 1,400 people dead.

She described them as having complex health needs, telling Times Radio that her father had recorded high blood pressure the night before he was captured.

The United States has advised Tel Aviv to delay an expected ground invasion to allow time to negotiate the release of more hostages taken by Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

The release comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said British intelligence had concluded that Israel was unlikely to have been responsible for a hospital blast that is thought to have killed hundreds of people in Gaza City.

Experts had been assessing the cause of the al Ahli atrocity since it happened on October 17, with Mr Sunak saying during his trip to the Middle East last week that the available evidence was still being reviewed.

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak addressed MPs about his trip to the Middle East last week (UK Parliament/Maria Unger/PA)

But, in an update to MPs on Monday, he said the UK Government had judged that it was “likely caused by a missile, or part of one, that was launched from within Gaza towards Israel”.

The explosion provoked condemnation around the world as well as rival claims about who was to blame.

Israel and Hamas both issued competing versions of events regarding the cause of the blast, with the Palestinian militant group blaming an Israeli airstrike.

The Israeli military blamed a misfiring rocket from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group and released imagery and communications intercepts it said supported its case.

US President Joe Biden, during his visit in Tel Aviv, had sided with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government’s assessment of the tragedy.

Mr Sunak, who travelled to Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt last week, hit out at the “misreporting” of the incident, which he said had a “negative effect in the region, including on a vital US diplomatic effort and on tensions here at home”.

In comments cheered by parliamentarians, he said: “We need to learn the lessons and ensure that in future there is no rush to judgment.”

The Prime Minister also used the statement to confirm that the Government will provide an additional £20 million of humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza.