Yocheved Livschitz, an 85-year-old Israeli woman, found a moment of peace when she was released from captivity after a 16-day ordeal in Gaza. The defining moment came as the released Israeli hostage shook hands with a masked Hamas militant and greeted him with the Hebrew word for peace, Shalom.

When questioned about this unexpected gesture, Yocheved Livschitz responded: ” Because they treated us very nicely.”

Livschitz, along with Nurit Yitzhak (also known as Nurit Cooper), was released in a deal facilitated by Egypt and Qatar. They were handed over to the Red Cross at the Egyptian border.

Yocheved Livschitz recounted how her captors, initially violent, had later exhibited care and gentleness.

Reuniting with her relieved relatives at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, Yocheved Lifshitz spoke about the events that unfolded since 7 October, when Hamas fighters breached a security fence, resulting in over 1,400 casualties and approximately 220 abductions.

Yocheved Lifshitz remained remarkably calm and composed as she addressed a barrage of questions during a press conference held at the hospital. She spoke of being tied to a motorcycle and taken to Gaza, enduring physical harm, during the abduction.

Yocheved Livschitz and her husband Oded are veteran peace and human rights activists known for their work in transporting sick Palestinians from Gaza to medical treatment in Israel.

Initially held at Abasan al-Kabira near Be’eri kibbutz, Yocheved and her fellow captives were later moved to an undisclosed location through a network of wet tunnels. After several hours of underground travel, they found themselves in a large hall, where they were separated based on their kibbutz of origin.

The released Israeli hostage also remarked on the hygiene practice: “They were very concerned with hygiene and were worried about an outbreak of something. We had toilets which they cleaned every day.”

The guards provided the same food to the prisoners as they ate. A doctor visited daily, offering medication and treatment.

Yocheved Lifshitz accused Israel’s security forces of not taking seriously the evidence of an impending attack by the Palestinian group.

While Yocheved was released, the condition and fate of other hostages, including her husband Oded, remain uncertain. In its ongoing bombardment, Israel has killed more than 5,000 people, mostly women and children, in Gaza.

Oded Lifshitz, who was scheduled to attend the hospital for high blood pressure treatment when he was abducted, is known as a journalist and advocate for Palestinian and Bedouin rights.