Details have begun to emerge of the atrocities inflicted by Hamas upon the released hostages.
A total of 110 hostages, seventy-eight of them Israeli women and children, have been released to date before the temporary ceasefire was broken by Hamas. Here are the accounts of two children; Emily, who was conditioned to whisper and calls Gaza ‘the box’, and Eitan, who was beaten by Gazan residents and forced to watch the massacre on video, and Ditza, who was neglected in an attic. Plus, details are emerging of women kept in cages and children branded with a mark so in case they escaped.
Emily Hand, 9
Among them is Emily Hand, the 9-year-old daughter of Thomas Hand who spoke at the Christian-led 19th November ‘Never Again is Now’ prayer rally in which he pleaded for his little girl’s release. Speaking this week to CNN, Thomas Hand explained how his daughter had been conditioned not to make any noise.
He adds that Emily felt as though she was held captive for an entire year. “Apart from the whispering, that was a punch in the guts. A year.” He added that Emily now calls Gaza “the box.”
Emily was abducted while at a sleepover in Kibbutz Be’eri during the Hamas attack on 7th October, along with her friend Hila, 13, who has also been released.
Speaking to The Sun, Mr Hand said he will do “whatever it takes” to restore his daughter’s sense of safety and wellbeing.
“I can’t bear to think about what she’s been through – she’s been terrorised by terrorists in hell – but as her dad, it’s my job to make it better, and I will,” he said.
“It’s going to be a long road, but we’ll get there.”
Mr Hand had feared his daughter was being held in a labyrinth of tunnels nicknamed the “Gaza Metro” but Emily said that was not the case.
“They made her run from the Israeli army from house to house. She was constantly being moved – sometimes under fire – to stay one step ahead of the army,” Mr Hand added.
“She must have been absolutely terrified – an eight-year-old girl being led by strangers from one blown-up shell of a house to the next in the middle of a war zone.”
Mr Hand said his daughter had recounted Hamas gunmen were shouting “yala, yala, yala” in Arabic, which means “hurry, hurry, hurry”, at the hostages as they ran for their lives as Israel rained shells and gunfire down upon them.
“I said when she was being held that I was horrified by the thought of her spending her ninth birthday in the tunnels under Gaza,” he said.
“But the reality of what was happening to her was actually much worse – and I’m glad I didn’t know what she was going through at the time.”
Emily learned after her return that her “second mom” had been killed by Hamas. (Her mother died of cancer when she was two.)
“Last night she cried until her face was red and blotchy, she couldn’t stop. She didn’t want any comfort, I guess she’s forgotten how to be comforted,” Hand said. “She went under the covers of the bed, the quilt, covered herself up and quietly cried.”
Mr Hand added that Emily remains in shock and is being evaluated by child trauma specialists in a hospital near Tel Aviv.
He said doctors have put her on a course of vitamins to boost her nervous system, and she is now “eating like a horse” after being deprived of food for more than seven weeks.
“I know now I’m going to become an overprotective dad and still can’t bear to let her out of my sight,” Mr Hand said.
“But the last thing I would ever want is for her to feel trapped or threatened in any way again.”
Eitan Yahalomi, 12
After the release of 12-year-old Eitan Yahalomi on Monday night, his aunt, Deborah Cohen, depicted the terrible treatment he experienced.
“I wanted to hope that he was treated well, but it turned out that he was not. I could not have expected to hear such descriptions,” she said.
She told French TV network BFM that Palestinian civilians beat him. “When he arrived in Gaza, all the residents, everyone, beat him. He is a 12-year-old child.”
She also described how any time a child cried “they threatened them with rifles to shut them up.”
The 12 year old boy was also forced to watch videos of Hamas committing atrocities on Oct 7th. “The Hamas terrorists forced him to watch films of the horrors, the kind that no one wants to see, they forced him to watch them.”
Ditza Hayman, 84
Ditza Hayman, 84, was kidnapped by Hamas from Kibbutz Nir Oz. Her son Gideon told Israeli Channel 12 about her neglect.
“The kidnappers took my mother to the attic of an unfinished building inside Gaza. She was hidden there completely alone, without other hostages and was trapped inside the building,” said Gideon.
“In the cold, without running water, electricity and with very little food. I will not go into detail about the hygiene that was there. Think about the worst possible—and then worse than that,” he said.
“Once or twice a day one of the kidnappers came to her, served her food and left. During all these days she did not receive any medical treatment, nor could she ask for it, because the kidnappers did not speak Hebrew or English,” he added.
Female hostages were kept in cages, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, a group set up in the wake of the attack, revealed on Monday.
Children were marked with a burn lest they escape, according to Yaniv Yaakov, the uncle of the brothers Or, 16, and Yagil, 12, who were freed on Nov. 27.
“Every child that Hamas took was taken on a motorcycle, and they took each child and put their leg in front of the exhaust pipe, which caused a burn to mark the children so that in case they ran away or fled, they could find them,” he said.
A Thai hostage who was released told Israel’s Channel 12 that the Jewish captives were beaten with electric cables and that Israeli hostages were treated worse than the others, he said.
These are just three of the Israeli hostages. The stories are just beginning to emerge.