Two more hostages released from Gaza by Hamas, Red Cross confirms

Nurit Cooper, 79, (left) and Yocheved Lifschitz, 85, were taken to the Rafah Crossing on Monday (via Reuters)
Nurit Cooper, 79, (left) and Yocheved Lifschitz, 85, were taken to the Rafah Crossing on Monday (via Reuters)

Two elderly women that were held captive by Hamas militants have been released from Gaza, the International Committee of the Red Cross has confirmed.

The two Israeli hostages were released on Monday evening at the Egyptian Rafah crossing.

The women have been identified by Israeli media as Nurit Cooper, 79, and Yocheved Lifschitz, 85, who is the mother of Walthamstow artist Sharone Lifschitz. Footage broadcast on Egyptian television station Extra News showed the women being transferred from a Red Cross vehicle to ambulances, to be taken back into Israel.

The women and their husbands were snatched by Hamas militants from their homes in the kibbutz of Nir Oz near the Gaza border on October 7. Their husbands have not been released.

Mrs Lifschitz confirmed to the Standard that her mother had been released on Monday evening.

"I can confirm that my mother Yochi (Yocheved) Lifschitz was one of two hostages released to the Red Cross," she said in a statement.

"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."

Sharone Lifschitz travelled to Israel on Monday evening from London.

Walthamstow artist and mother Sharone Lifschitz (REUTERS)
Walthamstow artist and mother Sharone Lifschitz (REUTERS)

In a statement, Hamas said it had released the women for humanitarian reasons through Egyptian-Qatari mediation.

Abu Ubaida, a spokesperson for the armed wing, said in a statement on Telegram: "We decided to release them for humanitarian and poor health grounds."

Extra News aired footage of the two women being helped into the ambulances and onto beds before they were treated by medical teams.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it helped to facilitate their release and they were transported out of Gaza on Monday evening.

"Our role as a neutral intermediary makes this work possible and we are ready to facilitate any future release," the organisation said in a statement on social media.

"We hope that they will soon be back with their loved ones."

Mrs Lifschitz earlier told the Standard that she believed her mother had been taken hostage along with around 90 others from her kibbutz.

Niz Oz kibbutz near the Israeli border with Gaza (Supplied)
Niz Oz kibbutz near the Israeli border with Gaza (Supplied)

She said her mother uses an oxygen tank when she sleeps, and her father, 83, awoke to the sounds of rockets over their kibbutz on October 7.

Her father rang family members to warn them that he could hear gunmen shooting and yelling outside, and it’s believed shortly afterwards they broke into the family home where Mrs Lifschitz grew up.

Mrs Lifschitz lost contact with her parents after that, but heard via local residents that many people were taken from their beds, piled onto trucks and taken into Gaza by Hamas militants.

"I believe my parents, because of the location of their home, were among the very first taken by the military terrorists," she previously told the Standard.

Mrs Lifschitz said she, her husband and son had visited the family home in August and they would often make trips to see her parents.

Hamas and other militants in Gaza are believed to have taken roughly 220 people, including an unconfirmed number of foreigners and dual nationals.

The British government has said that "at least" seven people have died and a further nine are missing following the attack in Israel.

Hamas released an American woman and her teenage daughter on Friday in what it said was a humanitarian gesture mediated by Qatar.

Israel is widely expected to launch a ground offensive in Gaza, vowing to destroy Hamas after its brutal October 7 rampage into southern Israeli communities.

It has raised fears of the war spreading beyond Gaza and Israel, as Iranian-backed fighters in the region are warning of possible escalation.

Israel has traded fire with Hezbollah and Israeli warplanes have hit targets in the occupied West Bank, Syria and Lebanon in recent days.

In Gaza, 20 more aid trucks from Egypt entered on Monday, where the population of 2.3 million has been running out of food, water and medicine.

With Israel still barring entry of fuel, the UN said its distribution of aid would grind to a halt within days when it can no longer fuel its lorries.

Gaza hospitals are struggling to keep generators running to power life-saving medical equipment and incubators for premature babies.

Palestinians look for survivors in Rafah on Monday (AP)
Palestinians look for survivors in Rafah on Monday (AP)

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a further £20 million in support for Palestinians in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon.

He told the Commons: “I travelled first to Israel. It is a nation in mourning. But it is also a nation under attack. The violence against Israel did not end on October 7. Hundreds of rockets are launched at their towns and cities every day. And Hamas still holds around 200 hostages, including British citizens.

“In Jerusalem, I met some of the relatives who are suffering unbearable torment. Their pain will stay with me for the rest of my days.

“I’m doing everything in my power and working all our partners to get their loved ones home. So in my meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Herzog, I told them once again that we stand resolutely with Israel in defending itself against terror.

“I stressed again the need to act in line with international humanitarian law and take every possible step to avoid harming civilians.”

Mr Sunak also told MPs the deadly blast at a Gaza hospital last week was likely caused by a missile launched from within the region towards Israel.

The Prime Minister said that the Government had been assessing the cause of the al Ahli atrocity since last week, but told MPs on Monday that it was “likely caused by a missile, or part of one, that was launched from within Gaza towards Israel”.

Hundreds of people are believed to have been killed in the blast at the hospital, which provoked condemnation around the world as well as rival claims about who was to blame.