Two elderly Israeli women, Yocheved Lifshitz and Nurit Cooper, have been released by Hamas after being kidnapped along with their husbands during the Islamist group’s attacks in southern Israel. The International Committee of the Red Cross facilitated their release and transported them out of the Gaza Strip on Monday evening. The women were seen being taken out of Gaza on stretchers at the Rafah crossing into Egypt and placed in ambulances. However, their husbands were not released and are still among the more than 200 hostages being held in Gaza.
The release of the two women comes after two American women with dual US-Israeli citizenship, a mother, and daughter from suburban Chicago, were released on Friday. The International Committee of the Red Cross stated that their role as a neutral intermediary made the release of the women possible, and they are ready to facilitate any future releases.
Hamas, in a statement on Telegram, said that they freed the two women for “compelling humanitarian reasons.” The group’s military wing also mentioned that they were holding the hostages to negotiate the release of all Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri had earlier stated that the longer the fighting continues, the higher the number of prisoners will become.
The release of the Israeli women coincides with reports that the Biden administration is pushing Israeli officials to delay a major ground offensive against Hamas. This delay aims to provide more time to negotiate the release of additional hostages. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to retaliate against Hamas for its October 7 attacks, which claimed the lives of approximately 1,400 people. Israeli airstrikes have killed over 5,000 Palestinians since the war began.
As tensions escalate, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman issued an ultimatum on Monday. The IDF stated that the ground offensive would be canceled if Hamas surrenders unconditionally and frees all of the hostages.
The situation in Gaza continues to be tense, with both sides engaged in a standoff. The release of the elderly Israeli women offers a glimmer of hope for the remaining hostages and raises the possibility of further negotiations. The international community, including the Red Cross, remains committed to facilitating such releases and finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict. The Biden administration’s involvement in urging for a delay in the ground offensive demonstrates the ongoing efforts to prevent further violence and loss of life. The coming days will be crucial in determining the next steps and whether a resolution can be reached to bring an end to the hostage situation and the conflict in Gaza.