Israeli hostage released says she was kept in tunnels under Gaza

Yocheved Lifschitz, 85, was released on Monday.

October 25, 2023, 9:29 AM

One of the two Israeli hostages released by Hamas on Monday, 85-year-old Yocheved Lifschitz, spoke with reporters from the lobby of the Tel Aviv hospital where she is being treated, saying she has "been through hell."

Lifschitz is one of four hostages that have been released by the Palestinian militant group in recent days. At least 222 people were taken hostage by Hamas fighters in a surprise attack on Israel Oct. 7, according to the Israeli military. Two American hostages, a mother and daughter, were released last week.

It's the latest outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas, which governs the neighboring Gaza Strip. The Oct. 7 attack left at least 1,400 people dead and 4,629 others injured in Israel, according to Israeli authorities. The Israeli military responded with a total siege and blockade of Gaza. Since then, at least 5,791 people have been killed and 16,297 have been injured in Gaza, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

Speaking to reporters in Hebrew on Tuesday, Lifschitz described being taken on the back seat of a motorcycle, which sped over fields, before she was forced to walk a few kilometers. Lifschitz said she then reached the entrance to a tunnel and entered an underground network that looked like a "spider web."

"They sent balloons, they burned our fields and the IDF somehow didn't take any of this seriously," Lifschitz told reporters.

"And suddenly on Saturday morning when all was quiet, there was this heavy bombardment and under that cover the mob broke through," she added. "They blew up that huge barrier on the border, opened the gates to the kibbutz and they came in in large numbers … That was very, very unpleasant and very hard … and in my memory I hold those difficult images."

Once they were inside the tunnels, Lifschitz said she and the other hostages were told by their captors that they will be provided the same living conditions as Hamas.

She said the hostages were separated into groups and she was put in a separate room with a group of five people from her kibbutz, which was among the communities attacked near Israel's border with Gaza. She said there were guards for each one of them and that a medic and doctor came to care for them and brought medication if they needed it.

"They separated us in groups according to which kibbutz we came from," Lifschitz said. "They provided for all our needs. They were very polite."

PHOTO: Yocheved Lifshitz speaks to the media alongside her daughter Sharone Lifschitz, left, at Ichilov Hospital after she was released by Hamas last night, on October 24, 2023 in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Yocheved Lifshitz speaks to the media alongside her daughter Sharone Lifschitz, left, at Ichilov Hospital after she was released by Hamas last night, on October 24, 2023 in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images

The hostages slept on mattresses in underground tunnels in Gaza and were given pita bread, cheese and cucumber -- the same food their captors ate, according to Lifschitz.

Lifschitz said she was living in "clean" conditions with a doctor visiting her every two or three days and access to medicines if she needed any.

"They treated us well," she said. "There are many women here and all know what female hygiene means. They made sure we had all needed, they cleaned the toilets -- they did, not us -- they were concerned of disease spreading."

Lifschitz said their captors wanted to talk about politics but she said she did not.

"They were very friendly to us," she added.

In an interview with ABC News in Tel Aviv later Tuesday, Lifshitz's grandson, Daniel, described her physical condition as "weak" and said she needs "a very, very long rest."

Daniel said his grandmother raised him when he was young in her kibbutz, which he described as "a heaven" that Hamas has now "ruined."

"She was like a mother for me," he told ABC News..

Lifschitz's husband -- Daniel's grandfather -- was also taken hostage and is still being held in Gaza. He had been shot in the hand and the last time the couple saw each other was when Lifschitz was being taken away on the motorcycle, according to their grandson.

"I'm afraid for all the hostages," Daniel added. "Every day [that] pass[es], the life of the hostages is in danger. So they have to move fast ... to bring [them] back."

ABC News' Morgan Winsor contributed to this report.

Related Topics