Despite a weekslong bombing effort by the Israeli military, which has left thousands dead, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, Ms. Lifshitz described a seemingly well-organized operation, with operatives given special responsibilities, including doctors, guards and medics.
The militants brought her to a large underground hall where they had gathered 25 people, before five from Nir Oz were separated and placed in a room on their own, Ms. Lifschitz said. “We were closely guarded by their guards and a medic. At a certain point a doctor also arrived and made sure that we received our pills and medication,” she said.
Ms. Lifshitz said her captors paid special attention to health of the hostages, providing medication, shampoo and feminine hygiene products. The hostages were fed the same meager provisions their guards ate: a single daily meal of pita bread, two kinds of cheese and cucumber.
“They were very attentive to the sanitary aspect,” she said, “so we don’t get sick on them, God forbid. There was a doctor nearby who would come every two or three days to check in on us. And the medic took the responsibility to bring us medication. If they did not have the exact same medication, they brought us the equivalent.”
In a video documenting Ms. Lifshitz’s handover to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which was filmed and released by the armed wing of Hamas, Ms. Lifschitz appears to grasp one Hamas member’s hands and repeat the Hebrew word “shalom,” meaning goodbye and also peace.
Her grandson, Daniel Lifshitz, said in a televised interview that his grandmother would remain in the hospital for now, adding that she would “need a lot of time to recover from this, even though she looks strong.”
Israel has historically made the return of captives a national priority. In 2011, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners — including Hamas’s current leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar — in exchange for a single Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit.
But the country has never faced a crisis in which so many citizens were being held hostage at one time. Hamas has said it is willing to consider releasing “foreign nationalities under temporary custody, as and when security circumstances permit.”
Before Tuesday’s release of Ms. Lifshitz and Ms. Cooper, the group had allowed the release of only two other captives, the dual American-Israeli citizens Judith Raanan and her daughter, Natalie. The Raanans, released on Oct. 20, have not spoken publicly about their ordeal.