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Daughter of hostages says some Britons ‘almost celebrating’ Hamas attacks

Sharone Lifschitz, a London-based British-Israeli whose relative are among the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza (Lucy North/PA)
Sharone Lifschitz, a London-based British-Israeli whose relative are among the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza (Lucy North/PA)

A British-Israeli woman whose parents were taken hostage by Hamas said it “pains” her to see some Britons “almost celebrating” the October 7 attacks on Israel.

Sharone Lifschitz’s 85-year-old mother, Yocheved, was among the first hostages to be freed by the militant group in October, but her 83-year-old father, Oded, remains in captivity.

Gunmen shot at her parents’ safe room on Kibbutz Nir Oz, near the border with Gaza, leaving her father unconscious – while her mother was disconnected from her oxygen machine and dragged into the Strip on a motorbike.

The 52-year-old told the PA news agency people in the UK should avoid picking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as if it were “a football game”.

She said: “I have lived in the UK for most of my life and all my adult life.

“I have never seen the situation this hostile and so often people think they need to pick a side like a football game… and decide these people are good and bad.

“That is so against everything my father and mother taught me, which is to see the human and know that we are all human.

“You see young people and old people in the UK almost celebrating October 7, it pains me as a member of the community and it pains me as a human.

“I really do feel I am exasperated with people in the West. This one-sidedness, I don’t understand how people who believe in liberal values can support a murderous organisation.

“So many people almost believe it didn’t happen. That is dystopian, I find it so dystopian.

“You never, never celebrate the pain of others.”

Ms Lifschitz, a London-based artist and academic, revealed that the tunnels where her father had been held captive have now been taken over by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), while her mother was released after suffering from a stomach bug.

Her only source of information on her father’s condition are Hamas videos and the accounts of hostages who came back.

It was only when some 78 Israeli and dual national hostages were released in November, during a pause in fighting, that she knew her father had arrived in Gaza alive, she added.

He received basic medical care and was looking “everywhere” for his wife of 63 years.

She went on: “At the moment it is a really difficult moment. It is just so long, we are trying so hard to hold on and hold our energy, and continue advocating.

“At the same time, there is a growing realisation that not everybody would survive.

“Where the hostages are now we don’t know.”

Meanwhile her mother, whom she described as a “tough cookie”, is finding it harder and harder to go out and campaign for the release of other hostages.

She said: “She herself has lost so much, she has lost her husband at the moment. She doesn’t know if he is alive or dead, she is so worried about him.

“They have never been separated for so long. She lost her home, all her belongings and so many friends.

“She is in a new part of the world, it is tough on an 85-year-old woman.”

Ms Lifschitz, whose parents were both peace activists, said she believes the Israeli government’s two stated objectives of bringing back the hostages and destroying Hamas are incompatible, and called for a diplomatic solution.

She said: “The military campaign has only managed to free one hostage alive.

“I think the government of Israel has two priorities and they don’t always agree.

“You can’t both want to destroy Hamas and bring about the release of hostages, it is complicated.

“The UK must press on the Israeli government to make good by its wishes and accept any deal on the table.

“Our allies… should push for a long-term agreement and understand that the exchange of hostages will not happen without accepting… a deal that includes a long-term solution.

“Without that, the likelihood of seeing our loved ones back alive is very slim.”

She said it was “really great” that Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron visited Israel as she urged Britons to “press on everybody” to keep the hostages and their families in their thoughts.

She said: “I beg people to keep at it and not give up. For them every day is like a year, like a month. Your life is in the hands of others.

“I think for people in the UK, press on everybody to keep us in their thoughts.

“Help people trying to advocate asking their MPs to raise it in Parliament, ask everybody to keep it at the forefront (of their minds).

“I think it was really great that David Cameron came to Israel to show he is committed to bringing back the hostages, it was really encouraging to see that.

“The UK must press on the Israeli government to make good by its wishes and accept any deal on the table.”

When asked whether the UK Government is doing enough to help secure the hostages release, she said: “We never know the full picture. (We) keep being told people are doing their best, there is no way for us to know apart from the release of hostages.

“David Cameron is doing a lot, the FCO is doing a lot, they are keeping us informed which is great, I am grateful for that.

“At the end of the day, I want them of course to do more. I want my father back.”

She said she has visited the kibbutz, where she grew up before moving to the UK, several times since the attacks.

She told PA: “I know the sounds, I know the smells, I know the people. When I go back there, something in my heart expands just before it dawns on me that there are bloodstains everywhere and the houses are burnt.

“Before that there is a moment where your soul is at home.

“I keep wanting to shout at people not to send me pictures of my parents’ burnt out house and people keep going there.

“It is like a place which people want to see. I don’t know the words, I don’t know the words for it.”

More than 25,700 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the war began, according to the Hamas-run health ministry – while around 130 Israelis remain hostage there.

Many women and children were released from captivity by Hamas during the pause in fighting last November but elderly male hostages remain in Gaza.

It is unclear whether those who rely on medication have been able to get it.

The joint chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ageing and Older People, Lord Foulkes, said: “Being a hostage is a big enough terror but for older people it is doubly difficult. In all humanity our Government must do everything possible to get their release, preferably along with all the hostages who are now suffering unbearably.”