“I went through hell,” says Yocheved Lifschitz, an 85-year-old grandmother and peace activist released by Hamas on Monday after two weeks in captivity.
Mrs Lifschitz and her husband were kidnapped by Hamas gunmen on motorbikes and taken into a “spider’s web” of tunnels underneath Gaza, she said.
She said she was hit by sticks on the journey, but that most of the hostages were being “treated well”.
She was freed alongside another woman, Nurit Cooper, 79, on Monday evening.
Extraordinary images show the grandmother shaking the hand of a Hamas gunman, just seconds before she was escorted to an ambulance by the International Red Cross which drove her back into Israel.
“Shalom,” she tells the gunman – the Arabic word for peace.
Mrs Lifschitz was kidnapped, alongside her husband Oded, from Nir Oz kibbutz in southern Israel on 7 October. He has not been released.
It was early in the morning when Hamas attacked their kibbutz, massacring the small community. One in four residents are believed to have been killed or kidnapped, including many children.
Speaking at a news conference from a hospital in Tel Aviv just a few hours after her release, Mrs Lifschitz explained what happened after she was kidnapped.
She said he was hit with sticks during the journey into Gaza and suffered bruises and breathing difficulties.
Her daughter, Sharone Lifschitz, who helped tell reporters of her mother’s ordeal, said the 85-year-old was forced to walk for a few kilometres on wet ground.
Sharone said her mother was taken into “a huge network of tunnels underneath Gaza that it looked like a spider’s web”.
Asked by a reporter why she had shaken hands with the gunman, Mrs Lifschitz said the hostage takers had treated her well and the remaining hostages were in good condition.
Sharone said she wasn’t surprised by the gesture – “the way she walked off and then came back and then said thank you was quite incredible to me. It’s so her,” she earlier told the BBC.
Mrs Lifschitz and her 83-year-old husband are known peace activists who helped transport sick people out of Gaza to hospitals in Israel, according to their families.
Nurit Cooper’s husband is also still being held by Hamas.
Four hostages have been released in total after two American-Israelis, mother and daughter Judith and Natalie Raanan, were released from captivity on Friday.
Israel says more than 200 people are still being held hostage.