Foreign Office to work for more hostage releases as British woman’s mother freed

Foreign Office to work for more hostage releases as British woman’s mother freed

The Foreign Office has said it will “continue to work tirelessly” on securing the release of more hostages after a British citizen confirmed her mother had been freed by Hamas.

Sharone Lifschitz spoke of her relief that her mother Yocheved Lifshitz was handed over by the Palestinian militants, along with fellow Israeli citizen Nurit Cooper, on Monday evening.

Ms Lifshitz’s London-based daughter said she would continue to campaign for the release of her father and other captives who were snatched by Hamas during its bloody raids on October 7.

She told the BBC on Tuesday that her mother “seems okay”.

“She is very sharp and is very keen to share the information, pass on the information to families of other hostages she was with.”

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said the department welcomed the release of two further hostages, three days after an American woman and her teenage daughter were let go.

A spokeswoman said: “Our thoughts remain with the families of loved ones still being held captive, as they endure unimaginable anguish and worry at this time.

“We will continue to work tirelessly with Qatar, Israel and others to ensure all hostages come home safely.”

Qatar is seen as a key mediator in the Middle East conflict, with Doha using its ties to Hamas — a number of figures from the Gaza-ruling group’s political wing are said to live in the country — to negotiate for the release of about 220 hostages taken during the deadly assault on Israel more than two weeks ago.

Further pleas for Hamas to give up its hostages are expected to be made on Tuesday during a press conference with affected families at the Israeli Embassy in London.

It comes after Mrs Lifshitz, 85, and Ms Cooper, 79, were handed over to the Red Cross at the Rafah crossing on Monday evening. They were expected to be transferred to Israel.

The two women and their husbands were taken from their homes in the kibbutz of Nir Oz near the Gaza border during Hamas’s rampage into southern Israeli communities.

The women’s husbands have not been released.

The United States has advised Tel Aviv to delay an expected ground invasion to allow time to negotiate the release of more captives.

Sharone Lifschitz, in a statement, said: “I can confirm that my mother Yochi Lifshitz was one of two hostages released to the Red Cross this evening.

“While I cannot put into words the relief that she is now safe, I will remain focused on securing the release of my father and all those, some 200 innocent people, who remain hostages in Gaza.”

Hamas said it had released the two women for humanitarian reasons.

Israel-Hamas conflict
Sharon Lifschitz, a London-based British Israeli, has vowed to continue fighting for the release of her father after Hamas freed her mother (Lucy North/PA)

Ms Lifschitz had spoken to the media earlier on Monday about how she had not heard from either of her parents since Hamas’s ambush left 1,400 people dead and ignited fresh violence in the region, with more than 5,000 Palestinians killed in retaliatory strikes.

She described her parents as having complex health needs, telling Times Radio her father had recorded high blood pressure the night before he was captured.

The release comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said British intelligence had concluded Israel was unlikely to have been responsible for a hospital blast that is thought to have killed hundreds of people in Gaza City.

Experts had been assessing the cause of the al Ahli atrocity since it happened on October 17, with Mr Sunak saying during his trip to the Middle East last week that the available evidence was still being reviewed.

But, in an update to MPs on Monday, he said the UK Government had judged it was “likely caused by a missile, or part of one, that was launched from within Gaza towards Israel”.

The explosion provoked condemnation around the world as well as rival claims about who was to blame.

Israel and Hamas both issued competing versions of events regarding the cause of the blast, with the Palestinian group blaming an Israeli airstrike.

The Israeli military blamed a misfiring rocket from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group and released imagery and communications intercepts it said supported its case.

US President Joe Biden, during his visit to Tel Aviv, had sided with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government’s assessment of the tragedy.

The impact of the conflict has been felt in Britain with protests and vigils held in support of both Israel and those Palestinians trapped in Gaza.

Mr Sunak told MPs that chants of “jihad” by pro-Palestinian demonstrators over the weekend were a threat to Jewish communities and “our democratic values”.

The Prime Minister appeared to signal that new powers for police to address chants deemed to be extremist were unlikely, although he pledged to “address” where there were “gaps in the law”.

His comments came after Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley, following a meeting with Home Secretary Suella Braverman, suggested anti-extremism legislation may need to be tightened, saying that it was possible “some of the lines aren’t quite in the right place”.