British woman speaks of ‘relief’ after release of hostage mother Yocheved Lifsitz by Hamas

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

Yocheved Lifshitz and Nurit Cooper were handed over to the Red Cross at the Rafah crossing on Monday night and will soon be flown to Israel.

The Foreign Office said that while both women freed by the banned terror group were Israeli, one of the women has family in the UK, with Ms Lifshitz's daughter who lives in London confirming her mother had been released.

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

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

A spokesman for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said: “We welcome the release of two more hostages this afternoon.

We will continue to work tirelessly with Qatar, Israel and others to ensure that all hostages return home safely

representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

“Our thoughts remain with the families of loved ones still 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 that all hostages return home safely.”

The two freed hostages, Ms Lifshitz, 85, and Ms Cooper, 79, were flown from Gaza to the Rafah crossing in Egypt, where they were transferred to ambulances, according to footage shown on Egyptian television.

The two women and their husbands were taken from their homes in the Nir Oz kibbutz near the Gaza border during the October 7 Hamas attack on the southern Israeli communities.

Their husbands were not released.

Hamas said it released the two women on humanitarian grounds, days after the release of 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 the Hamas ambush more than two weeks ago that left 1,400 dead.

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

The US recommended that Tel Aviv delay an expected ground invasion to allow time to negotiate the release of more hostages from Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

The release comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said British intelligence had concluded Israel was unlikely to be responsible for a hospital explosion believed 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 available evidence was still being examined.

However, in a briefing to MPs on Monday, he said the UK government had judged it “likely to have been caused by a rocket, or part of one, fired from Gaza towards Israel”.

The explosion sparked worldwide condemnation as well as competing claims about who was to blame.

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

The Israeli military blamed a rocket from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and released images and intercepted communications it said supported its case.

US President Joe Biden, during his visit to Tel Aviv, had sided with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government's assessment of the tragedy.

Mr Sunak, who traveled to Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt last week, expressed concern over the “misreporting” of the incident, which he said had a “negative impact on the region, including vital diplomatic of the US effort and the tensions here at Home”.

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

The prime minister also used the statement to confirm that the government would provide an additional £20 million in humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza.