Updated Oct 23, 2023 - World

Hamas releases 2 elderly Israeli hostages held in Gaza

Nurit Cooper, 79, and Yocheved Lifshitz, 85. Photos: Handouts/Hostages and missing families forum/Handout via Reuters

Nurit Cooper, 79, and Yocheved Lifshitz, 85. Photo: Handouts/Hostages and Missing Families Forum via Reuters

Hamas on Monday released two elderly Israeli hostages for what it said were humanitarian reasons.

The big picture: The release of Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, and Nurit Cooper, 79, comes just days after Hamas released an American mother and her teenage daughter from captivity. The group is still holding more than 200 people, including Americans, hostage, according to Israeli officials.

  • The latest release came after mediation efforts by Egypt, a spokesperson for Hamas said on Telegram. The initial Hamas announcement also cited Qatar, but the spokesperson later deleted the reference to the Gulf country.
  • The Israeli Prime Minister's Office issued a statement thanking Egypt and the Red Cross for helping in the release of the two hostages.
  • Israeli officials said that the families of Lifshitz and Cooper have been notified. The officials added that the husbands of the two women were also kidnapped by Hamas militants and haven't been released.

State of play: Securing the release of hostages has been a top priority for both the Israeli and U.S. governments since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack.

  • Hamas has previously demanded Israel release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the hostages.
  • Asked by reporters on Monday whether he would support a ceasefire in exchange for the release of the hostages, President Biden said: "We should have those hostages released and then we can talk."

What they're saying: Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a call later Monday.

  • Biden "welcomed the release of two additional hostages from Gaza," according to a White House readout of the call.
  • He also "reaffirmed his commitment to ongoing efforts to secure the release of all the remaining hostages taken by Hamas – including Americans – and to provide for safe passage for U.S. citizens and other civilians in Gaza," the readout added.

Go deeper: Where countries stand on the Israel-Hamas war

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details throughout.

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