An elderly Israeli hostage who was kept in Gaza’s underground tunnels for two weeks claims Hamas’ leader stayed silent when she confronted him about acting violently against civilians.
Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, was taken against her will from her home in Kibbutz Nir Oz during Hamas’ incursion into Israel on October 7.
She said while she was a captive, she met Yahya Sinwar and confronted him as to why he had ordered his troops to attack civilian settlements across Israel.
‘Sinwar was with us three to four days after we arrived,’ Lifshitz told the Davar newspaper.
‘I asked him how he is not ashamed to do such a thing to people who all these years have supported peace. He didn’t answer. He was silent.’
Yocheved was one of four women freed early on in the bloodiest between Hamas and Israel in decades.
Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, (pictured, centre) was taken against her will from her home in Kibbutz Nir Oz during Hamas’ incursion into Israel on October 7
She said while she was a captive, she met Yahya Sinwar (pictured) and confronted him as to why he had ordered his troops to attack civilian settlements across Israel
Video of her shaking the hand of a masked captor and saying ‘shalom’, the Hebrew word for peace, made headlines across the world.
When asked why she did this upon her release, she simply said: ‘They treated us gently and met all our needs.’
Despite her treatment, she admitted she ‘went through hell’ during her two week stint as a hostage.
On top of this, her husband, 83-year-old Oded, remains in captivity, and the state of his wellbeing is currently unknown.
The 85-year-old’s comments come after reports that Sinwar also met other hostages shortly after their capture.
During the visit, Sinwar and his brother Mohammed, a senior figure in the group’s armed wing, told the hostages they would not be harmed and would be returned to Israel as part of an exchange deal.
A relative of a recently released hostage told Israeli broadcast media that Sinwar told the group in Hebrew: ‘Hello, I am Yahya Sinwar. You are the most protected here. Nothing will happen to you.’
Israel has compared Sinwar to Osama Bin Laden, and had promised that his days are numbered.
Sinwar was exchanged with hundreds of other Palestinians for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was captured in June 2006 and held for five years
Sinwar is seen in 2011 being hugged and kissed by Palestinians on release from an Israeli prison
The 60-year-old political leader is the head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and was designated a terrorist by the United States in 2015.
He has been arrested by Israel multiple times and spent 24 years in Israeli prisons, and was freed in 2011, as part of a prisoner swap in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Sinwar is being held responsible for the murder of 1,200 Israelis during Hamas’ incursion.
‘Yahya Sinwar is the face of evil,’ said Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, a spokesman for the IDF.
‘He is the mastermind behind this, like bin Laden was.
‘He built his career on murdering Palestinians when he understood they were collaborators. That’s how he became known as the butcher of Khan Younis [in southern Gaza].’
Palestinians, who fled their houses amid Israeli strikes, shelter at a United Nations-run school in Gaza on Saturday
Palestinians wait at the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt
A Palestinian family gather their possessions on Saturday and prepared to flee Israel’s ground offensive
So far 89 captives have been released and another ten are due to be freed on Wednesday night ahead of end of the temporary truce at 7am tomorrow.
Hamas terrorists still hold at least eight children as hostages in Gaza as the ceasefire enters its final day, as Qatari mediators said they were working for a ‘sustainable ceasefire’.
Meanwhile, Hamas said today they are willing to extend a truce for four more days which would give them time to locate and free more Israeli hostages held by other terror groups.
If Israel agrees to this, Hamas ‘would be able to release Israeli prisoners that it, other resistance movements and other parties hold during this period, according to the terms of the truce,’ the source added.
Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesman Majed Al Ansari told a Doha news conference on Tuesday that negotiators were seeking ‘a sustainable truce that will lead to further negotiations and eventually to an end… to this war.’
Families of Israeli hostages were informed on Wednesday of the names of those due to be released later in the day, Israel’s public broadcaster Kan reported, the final group to be freed under the truce unless negotiators succeed in extending it.
Palestinians inspect the destruction caused by Israeli strikes in Wadi Gaza, in the central Gaza Strip on November 28
Two hostages were flanked by Hamas terrorists as were released to members of the Red Cross on Tuesday night
An Israeli hostage is flanked by Hamas gunmen as she is handed over to members of the Red Cross in Rafah, Gaza, on Tuesday night
Mia, 17, was filmed clutching her pet dog Bella as she was flanked by Hamas fighters during the exchange on Tuesday night
Officials did not say at the time whether that included the Bibas family.
A Palestinian official told Reuters that despite a willingness on both sides to prolong the truce, no agreement had yet been reached on whether to extend the truce. Discussions were still under way with mediators Egypt and Qatar, the official said.
Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy said Israel would consider any serious proposal, though he declined to provide further details.
‘We are doing everything we can in order to get those hostages out. Nothing is confirmed until it is confirmed,’ Levy told reporters in Tel Aviv. ‘We’re talking about very sensitive negotiations in which human lives hang in the balance.’
Once the release of hostages ends, the fighting will resume, he said: ‘This war will end with the end of Hamas.’
Last night, a new group of 12 Israeli and foreign hostages was freed from Gaza, with 30 Palestinians released by Israel.
The Israelis in the group were named as 36-year-old Rimon Kirsht, whose husband remains a hostage, Gabriela Leimberg, 59, and her daughter Mia, 17, who was filmed clutching her pet dog Bella as she was flanked by Hamas fighters.
Israel has destroyed much of Gaza already, having fired countless bombs and rockets on the enclave
A man is seen huffing at a shisha pipa in the ruins of Gaza, following weeks of Israeli bombing
Israeli bombardment has since reduced much of Gaza to a wasteland, with more than 15,000 people confirmed killed, 40% of them children, according to Palestinian health authorities deemed reliable by the United Nations
The group also includes Mia’s aunt Clara Merman, 63, Argentina-born Ofelia Roitman, 77, Ditza Herman, 84, Tamar Metzger, 78, Merav Tal, 53, Philippines-born Noralin Babdilla, 60, and Ada Sagi, 75, whose British son Noam has been campaigning in Israel and London for her release.
The fifth group of hostages is also said to include two foreign nationals, who Israel says are from Thailand but have not yet been named, bringing the number of hostages freed overnight to 12.
The initial four-day truce was extended by 48 hours from Tuesday, and Israel says it would be willing to prolong it further for as long as Hamas frees 10 hostages a day. But with fewer women and children still in captivity, that could mean agreeing to terms governing the release of at least some Israeli men for the first time.
Tuesday’s release also included for the first time hostages held by Islamic Jihad, a separate militant group, as well as by Hamas itself. The ability of Hamas to secure the release of hostages held by other factions had been an issue in earlier talks.
The truce has brought the first respite to a war launched by Israel to annihilate Hamas after the ‘Black Shabbat’ raid by gunmen who killed 1,200 people on the Jewish rest day, according to Israel’s tally.
Israeli bombardment has since reduced much of Gaza to a wasteland, with more than 15,000 people confirmed killed, 40% of them children, according to Palestinian health authorities deemed reliable by the United Nations.
Many more are feared buried under the ruins. The Palestinian health ministry said another 160 bodies had been pulled out of rubble during the past 24 hours of the truce, and around 6,500 people were still missing.