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Gaza War: Day 18

Captured Hamas terrorists reveal being offered $10,000, apartment for kidnapping Israelis

Nurit Cooper, 79, and Yocheved Lifshitz, 85 were released by Hamas on Monday night and are now recovering in a Tel Aviv hospital

Ilia Yefimovich/picture alliance via Getty Images

Yocheved Lifshitz, one of the two freed hostages, speaks to media in front of Ichilov Hospital, after she was released by Hamas from the Gaza Strip last night.

Hamas terrorists were offered some $10,000 and an apartment in Gaza if they returned to the Palestinian enclave after their mass terrorist attack on Oct. 7 with Israeli civilians, especially women and children, footage from the interrogations of captured Hamas fighters shared by the Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency, and the Israeli Police revealed on Monday.

In the 12-minute video, several individuals from the Palestinian terror group are asked about their actions and motives for carrying out the attack on southern Israel, which included infiltrations by thousands of terrorists from the Gaza Strip into more than 20 kibbutzim, two cities and a large music festival taking place in the area.

All those questioned spoke in Arabic and identified themselves as members of Hamas’ various combat units. They all attested to being ordered to kill and kidnap as many people as possible, soldiers as well as civilians. And they revealed jarring details about the depth of knowledge of the Israeli communities they were sent to attack and shared the names of several senior Hamas commanders, whom they said stayed behind in Gaza while the attack was carried out.

“Our mission was to go to Kfar Aza Kibbutz to kill and to kidnap anyone we could,” said one of the terrorists who gave his name as Ahmad Majad Ahmad Abu Hamid from the Alderaj neighborhood in Gaza.

He and the others described going into kibbutzim such as Kfar Aza, Nir Oz and Be’eri – some of the worst-hit communities – and shooting men and women wearing civilian clothes, some still in their underwear. Some of the terrorists said they moved back and forth between Gaza and the Israeli communities multiple times and spoke about the kidnappings of the elderly and children.

“When we went back, they took out a young girl about 15 or 16,” said Shadi Mohammad Almajdalai, a terrorist involved in the assault on Kibbutz Be’eri. “The young girl stood, and they took a selfie with her. Some of them said to shoot her, others said: ‘Don’t shoot her, kidnap her.’ They took pictures with her, someone took a selfie with her and put her on his motorcycle.”

Almajdalai also said that the terrorists were told by their commanders that “whoever brings the kidnapped or captured gets a stipend… an apartment and ten thousand dollars” – for each person they took.  

IDF Spokesman Daniel Hagari updated to 220 the number of people who are believed held hostage inside Gaza, with around 100 people still unaccounted for since the assault two and a half weeks ago. More than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, were murdered by Hamas and other terrorist factions. On Tuesday, Israel’s Health Ministry said that 278 injured individuals were still hospitalized, 40 of them in critical condition.

On Monday night, two of the hostages – Nurit Cooper, 79, and Yocheved Lifshitz, 85 – were released by Hamas to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which took them to the Rafah crossing. The two women, both from Kibbutz Nir Oz, were greeted by Israeli officials and taken to the Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv for treatment before being reunited with their families.

Speaking to press from the hospital on Tuesday, Lifshitz described her ordeal saying it was “hell.” She recounted how she was thrown over a motorcycle and taken to Gaza.

“At first they held me in the town of Abasan al-Kabira, which is close to [Kibbutz] Be’eri. After that, I don’t know where I was taken,” she said. “Eventually, we went underground and walked for kilometers in wet tunnels, for 2 or 3 hours in a spider web of tunnels. We reached a large hall. We were a group of 25 people, and they separated us according to which kibbutz we were from.”

Lifshitz said that a guard was assigned to each of the groups and a doctor examined them every other day. She said they were given medicine and the Hamas doctors took care of the wounded.

As part of its efforts to free the hostages, the IDF on Tuesday issued an appeal via multiple channels to the residents of Gaza to come forward with information about those being held. The army also offered protection and compensation for anyone who might help in locating and returning them.

In a veiled attempt at compassion, Hamas released a video of the women prior to their release receiving food and water from two balaclava-clad, gun-toting militants. In his daily briefing, Hagari said the clip was “part of the psychological war” being waged by Hamas and an attempt to “try and show the world they are a humanitarian organization.”

“Hamas is a murderous terrorist group that went into a kibbutz and took women, the elderly and mothers, and left their children at home without parents. They also took children and babies,” he said. “We will not forget what happened there and we will keep reminding the world that it happened too.”

Hagari thanked Egypt’s involvement in securing the release of the two women but emphasized that their husbands and an additional 220 people were still being held in Gaza. He said that the army would continue its efforts to release those in captivity, while also preparing for a full-scale military operation inside Gaza.

The spokesman said the army was fully ready for a ground operation, which is aimed at removing Hamas, its leaders and infrastructure, from the Palestinian enclave.

“Our forces in the south are amassed and ready,” he stated. “We are continuing with our training and assessing all the necessary information.”

Hagari added: “We will launch our operation when it is suitable for us. There are still some strategic and operational considerations, and we are looking at all the elements in Gaza and on the political level.”

There were reports on Monday that the White House was pressuring Israel to hold back from a ground incursion into Gaza, but Hagari said that while Israel respected America’s experience in fighting wars in the Middle East, “we are facing an enemy on our border…. And we have to make sure that the day after this war there is no threat on our border like there was on Oct. 7.”

Speaking to forces in the south on Monday, IDF Chief of the General Staff Herzi Halevi said: “We want to completely dismantle Hamas – its leaders, its military branch and its working mechanisms. That is why we are striking and eliminating high-ranking commanders and members, destroying infrastructure, and acting with great determination.”

An army statement on Tuesday said that in the past 24 hours, Israeli military jets had struck more than 400 targets in the Gaza neighborhoods of Shuja’iyya, Shati, Jabalia, Daraj Tuffah and Zaytun, destroying Hamas’ infrastructure and killing several Hamas commanders, as well as numerous lower-level operatives preparing attacks against Israel.

In Gaza, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), citing the Hamas-run Ministry of Health, said Tuesday that 436 Palestinians were killed in the past 24 hours and that the death toll in the Strip had surpassed 5,000, more than half women and children. The agency said that an estimated 1.4 million people were now internally displaced inside Gaza.

Meanwhile, for the third consecutive day, convoys of humanitarian aid continued to arrive via the Rafah crossing from Egypt. Some 20 trucks carrying food, water, and medical supplies reached the Palestinian enclave on Monday, OCHA said.

On Israel’s northern border, tensions continued through Tuesday, with an army statement reporting that artillery fire, anti-tank missiles and rockets fired by members of the Iranian-backed Shiite group Hezbollah were ongoing. Throughout the day Monday and overnight on Tuesday, the army said it was responding by striking Hezbollah targets, including a military compound, a military post, and an observation post used by Hezbollah.

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