The Health Ministry on Wednesday announced a “protocol for the treatment” of those returned to Israel after being taken captive in the deadly onslaught by Hamas on October 7, after a freed hostage’s press conference was slammed as a public relations win for the Gaza-ruling terror group.
Under the new rules, the ministry said those released from captivity will be treated in a separate ward, to which only their relatives, medical staff and security officials will have access.
A statement from the ministry, which cited its role “as the authority responsible for the mental and physical health of the captives,” did not give further details on the decision.
“The Health Ministry calls for the return of all the captives and prays for their health,” said the statement.
The ministry unveiled the new guidelines a day after Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, described Tuesday at a widely attended press conference outside Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital how her terrorist captors took her by motorcycle from Kibbutz Nir Oz to and into a “spiderweb” of tunnels in Gaza, while accusing Israel’s leadership of failures that made her and others into “scapegoats.”
She said her abductors beat her on the way to Gaza, but that she was treated well after that.
The event, with Lifshitz’s extensive and repeated description of the care she and other hostages received in captivity, was quickly criticized by some Israeli PR professionals and commentators as a major Israeli misstep and a propaganda victory for Hamas. While Lifshitz was not directly criticized, the government was blamed by some for failing to oversee the event, and the hospital was blamed by others for arranging it.
Hamas released Lifshitz and Nurit Cooper, 79, after 17 days in captivity, the third and fourth captives freed by the terror group in recent days. The two were released from Gaza into Egypt late Monday, and were then transferred to the IDF, which brought them to Ichilov for examination, where doctors said they were in good health.
At least 220 others — including the respective husbands of both women, Amiram Cooper, 84, and Oded Lifshitz, 83 — are believed to still be held hostage by Hamas.
Also Wednesday, the World Health Organization called for Hamas to provide proof of life of the hostages it is holding and release them all on health grounds.
The WHO said the International Committee of the Red Cross should be allowed immediate medical access to ascertain their health status, while it stands ready to provide the ICRC with any health support required for the hostages.
The WHO said it was “gravely concerned” for the health of the hostages, which, it said, include health workers and up to 30 children.
“There is an urgent need for the captors of the hostages to provide signs of life, proof of provision of health care and the immediate release, on humanitarian and health grounds, of all those abducted,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.
He held talks on Wednesday with the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, an Israeli organization that represents families of those abducted.
Tedros said he “heard firsthand the tragedy, trauma and suffering they are facing.”
“Many of the hostages, including children, women and the elderly, have pre-existing health conditions requiring urgent and sustained care and treatment. The mental health trauma that the abducted, and the families, are facing is acute and psychosocial support is of great importance,” he said.
Tedros said the UN health agency would do “all we can to support the health and humanitarian needs of those being held captive.”
“All civilians who are suffering in this conflict must be protected,” he added.
He called on all 194 WHO member states to put people’s health first and “take immediate action to end the ongoing suffering.”
The UN health agency has called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire for the safe delivery of health supplies and fuel throughout the Gaza Strip.