The daughter of a Hamas hostage said that any captive women raped around October 7 may no longer be able to undergo an abortion because “we are at the end of the first trimester”.
Speaking in Parliament this week, Sharone Lifschitz said: “We haven’t seen how many of the young women are pregnant as a result of rape.”
The urgency to free the hostages is compounded by the fact that medics might no longer be able to perform an abortion on the women.
She said: “We know that we are at the end of the first trimester and the point at which they would no longer be able to perform an abortion is fast approaching.”
Lifschitz, whose father Oded is being held hostage by Hamas, was speaking alongside Steve Brisley, brother-in-law of hostage Eli Sharabi; and Richard Ratcliffe, husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe; to mark 100 days since the hostages were seized.
The gathering followed a meeting in November, when concerns were raised about insufficient government support for families of hostages.
Responding to the criticism at Thursday’s meeting, the Leader of the Commons Penny Mordaunt acknowledged “unmet needs” and pledged to increase practical assistance, which the JC understands includes possible financial support.
Adam Wagner, the barrister representing the hostage families, noted: “Since the last meeting, the difference has been night and day in terms of support for the families”.
Brisley echoed this sentiment, saying: “I’m glad that my government has finally heard my family’s voice.”
London-based Lifschitz addressed the meeting via Zoom and highlighted the devastation of the Nir Oz community, from which 98 hostages were taken and where 14 kibbutz members, including whole families, were murdered. “We're facing a level of trauma that is hard to understand,” she said.
Lifschitz described how her frail 83-year-old father, Oded, suffers from a lung condition and was injured on October 7. “It’s hard to see how he can survive for much longer,” she said.
The UK-Israeli citizen said she “recently heard the statistics for the Holocaust and people in those horrific conditions [of captivity] lasted about three or four months and so we are reaching that point”.
Brisley told the meeting: “I watched the funeral of my sister and her two young nieces on a WhatsApp video call, huddled around my mobile phone, propped up on a coffee table in my elderly parents' living room, while they sobbed next to me on the sofa.”
Brisley’s family initially assumed Eli had been murdered in the attack but, in early November, were told he had been taken to Gaza. Brisley buried his grief for his sister and nieces to focus on “one goal”: to bring Eli home.
“Time may have already run out,” Brisley said. Eli’s brother, Yossi, was murdered by Hamas this week. About him, Brisley said: “For our beloved Yossi, our hopes are crushed. The videos released by Hamas over a 24-hour period were psychological torture. Make no mistake, these are war criminals who revel in compounding our distress.
“My story is not about nations or land or borders; it is about people, about family, about Eli.”
He said he was not interested in more anniversaries of the hostages' captivity: "I don’t want to reach 150 or 200 days.”
Lifschitz said: “The 136 people that are still held hostage in Gaza must be the top priority for Israel and for its allies. They must all be returned.
From left, Michael Elli MP, Steven Brisley, Richard Radcliffe and Adam Wagner, at the meeting in Portcullis House on Wednesday, January 17. (Jane Prinsley)
“It is time to be brave... there will not be a solution to this that will only be military. There will have to be also a diplomatic solution.”
Brisley said: “The only way there is any chance of them getting out is a ceasefire or humanitarian pause.” Radcliffe, too, noted: “It was a diplomatic solution that got Nazanin out.”
Radcliffe spoke of "the fear of doing the wrong thing”, to which Lifschitz said: “We are always petrified. We are petrified of saying the wrong thing, we are petrified that what we say might harm our loved ones.”
Radcliffe explained the challenges of “conflicting interests”. Speaking to the JC, he said that “every case is different”. According to Radcliffe, when families keep quiet “it keeps the price down” but “you’re much safer if you’re expensive".
“There is no roadmap,” Radcliffe went on, “to have family held hostage is to be in the darkness.” He asked people to acknowledge the pain of the families.
Lifschitz implored the room of politicians: “Those that believe in humanistic values must stand up united against people who commit these horrific crimes”.
MPs and Lords in the meeting appealed to those who had not spoken about the hostages to do so. One said: “It is vital we keep talking about this.”
Brisley said: “I'm a 47-year-old man, but for the past 100 nights I’ve once again slept with the light on. I slept with the light on as a child because I thought there were monsters in the world, I sleep with the light on now because I know there are monsters in the world.”