(JTA) — Hamas has freed two women, ages 79 and 85, whom it was holding hostage in Gaza, according to Israeli media reports.
The release of Nurit Yitzhak and Yocheved Lifshitz comes after the terror group released two other hostages, Natalie and Judith Raanan, who are American citizens from the Chicago area, on Friday. Israel has since said Hamas still holds 220 people hostage following its invasion of Israel on Oct. 7.
Hamas released Yitzhak and Lifshitz “for compelling humanitarian and health reasons,” according to a statement reported by the Israeli publication Ynet. Their husbands, who are also missing, have not been released. Hamas released the two hostages via a border crossing with Egypt, where Israeli authorities will meet them.
The release comes amid reports that Hamas is prepared to release 50 hostages with dual citizenship, but the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement that “Israel will not be a party to a ‘selection’ for holders of foreign passports for release.” (The Hebrew word “selektzia” typically refers to the Nazis’ practice of choosing Jewish prisoners for murder during the Holocaust.)
Both Lifshitz and Yitzhak come from founding families of Kibbutz Nir Oz, which was hit hard during the Oct. 7 attack in which Hamas terrorists killed and wounded thousands. Between a quarter and a third of the kibbutz’s 350 residents were killed or kidnapped, according to Haaretz.
Lifshitz and her husband, Oded, were known as peace activists who transported patients from Gaza to receive medical care in Israel. Yitzhak, who also goes by the name Nurit Cooper, disappeared from her home’s safe room along with her husband Amiram. Their son Rotem, who traveled from California to Israel after the attack, said the lack of blood in the room gave him hope that they had been abducted and without serious injury.
Hostage negotiations are reportedly ongoing via Qatar, where Hamas’ leadership is based, as Israel readies for a large-scale ground invasion of the Gaza Strip. Thousands of Palestinians have been killed in Israeli airstrikes following Hamas’ invasion.