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Hamas releases 2 Israeli hostages from Gaza as war continues

Hamas released two more hostages on Monday, identified by Israeli officials as Nurit Cooper and Yocheved Lifshitz, just days after releasing two American women on Friday.

Cooper and Lifshitz were abducted from their homes in Kibbutz Nir Oz, a small Israeli community near the Gaza border that came under attack on Oct. 7.

“After being handed over to the IDF forces, they are making their way at this time to a medical center in Israel that was specially organized and prepared to receive them. Their family members will be waiting for them there,” a spokesperson for Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office, on behalf of the Special Envoy for Abducted and Missing Persons, said.

Cooper, 79, was taken with her husband, 85-year-old Amiram Cooper, Israeli officials said. Lifshitz, 85, was also abducted along with her husband, 83-year-old Oded Lifshitz. The women’s husbands were not released.

Yocheved and Oded Lifshitz were peace activists and regularly transported patients from Gaza to hospitals across Israel for medical treatments, according to theTimes of Israel.

Speaking to with the BBC’s “Today” show on Tuesday, Lifshitz’s daughter Sharone, who lives in London, said it was “incredible” to see her mother again, adding: “Just to hold her hand, just to kiss her face and her cheek, and I’m so proud of her. She’s amazing.”

She said when she first tried to visit her mother following her release, she was asleep, but a nurse told her, “she’s very sharp and she’s very keen to share the information.”

Sharone told the BBC the family had received no news about her father, Oded, but noted his years working with a local aid group that routinely drives wounded Palestinians to area hospitals, saying he speaks Arabic and knows a lot of people in Gaza, so she was hopeful that someone might help him.

“There’s many people that tried to do that,” she told the BBC show, referring to the local aid work her father does. “It’s a twist of history that these communities that were really peace-loving communities are the ones to sustain such a horrendous massacre.”

According to a message posted to a Hamas-affiliated Telegram channel, the two hostages released Monday were let go for humanitarian reasons after mediation by Qatar and Egypt.

The International Committee of the Red Cross also facilitated the release, the agency said on social media. “Our role as a neutral intermediary makes this work possible & we are ready to facilitate any future release,” ICRC tweeted. “We hope that they will soon be back with their loved ones.”

Israeli officials thanked Egypt and the Red Cross.

Israel has said 222 hostages were taken during Hamas’ deadly Oct. 7 rampage into Israel. Israel Defense Forces said Friday that more than 20 of the hostages taken to Gaza were under the age of 18, and between 10 and 20 of the hostages were over the age of 80.

The first two hostages released on Friday,Judith and Natalie Raanan, are a mother and daughter, dual U.S.-Israeli citizens who live in Evanston, Illinois, and were visiting relatives in Israel. The Raanans were taken from Gaza by the International Committee of the Red Cross and reunited with family in Israel.

During his visit to Tel Aviv last week,President Biden saidthere was “no higher priority” for him than securing the release of the hostages held by Hamas.

Two sources told CBS News the U.S. has sought to slow Israel’s plans for a ground invasion of Gaza in order to prioritize the release of hostages and the distribution of aid. The message is said to have been conveyed primarily through defense channels.

At a White House briefing on Monday, John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, discussed ongoing efforts to secure the hostages’ release.

“It is literally an hour-by-hour effort here at the White House and at the State Department to find out where these folks are and to try to make the effort to to get them out and get them back,” Kirby said.

He added, “We still have about 10 unaccounted-for Americans and it’s not exactly clear to us where those 10 people are.”

Asked about the negotiations at a State Department briefing Monday, spokesman Matt Miller said, “As far as I’m aware, Hamas is not getting anything in return for the release of these hostages. … We have not released any prisoners, the government of Israel has not released any prisoners, I’m not aware of any release of any prisoners. We have called on Hamas to do this because it should not be holding innocent civilians hostage.”

CBS News spoke with family members of released hostages Judith and Natalie Raanan about how they are doing. Watch that interview in the video below:

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