Harrowing stories of captivity follow latest release of Hamas hostages

by Renata

Renata Kiss, FISM News

Hamas has released 81 hostages to date and, as more people are liberated, a trail of shocking stories from captives has made the headlines. But perhaps the most troubling testimonies have come recently from some of the children Hamas captured on Oct. 7.

One distressed father, Thomas Hand, told CNN that his 9-year-old daughter, Emily Hand, could only speak in whispers upon her release. 

“The most shocking and disturbing part of meeting her was that she was just whispering,” said Hand. He explained to the news outlet that he had to get inches from his daughter to hear her faint words. 

Despite being in the care of her family now, Emily still struggles from the effects of the abuse.

“Last night she cried until her face was red and blotchy, she couldn’t stop,” Hand said. “She didn’t want any comfort, I guess she’s forgotten how to be comforted. She went under the covers of the bed, the quilt, covered herself up, and quietly cried.”

In another story, the grandmother of 12-year-old Eitan Yahalomi said that her grandson endured both physical and psychological abuse during his captivity.

“For the first 16 days, he was alone and even in a closed room,” said Eitan’s grandmother, Esther Yahalomi. “Imagine for yourselves what he went through there.” 

Eitan’s aunt, Devora Cohen, told France’s BFM TV that Hamas forced the boy to watch the full video of the Oct. 7 massacre while receiving threats from his captors.

“Every time one of the children there cried, they threatened him with a gun to silence him. And when he arrived in Gaza, the residents, everyone, hit him. He is a 12-year-old child. We’re talking about a 12-year-old child,” said Cohen.

Eitan’s grandmother said that when he was finally released, she was hopeful he would be ok.

“He came back thinner, not smiling. But it seems to me that physically he is healthy. I can still feel the first hug, it was strong, it was great. I had a lot of hope all this time, I didn’t lose heart, I knew Eitan would come back and the army gave him back to me,” she said. 

These testimonies presented a stark contrast compared to the earlier, more controversial, reports of Israeli captives.

In a video released by Hamas in October, 85-year-old peace activist Yocheved Lifshitz shook hands with one of her captors while saying “shalom,” meaning “peace,” as she was released by the terrorist group.

According to reports, Lifshitz was badly beaten in the ribs which made it difficult for her to breathe and left her looking exhausted. Yet she told reporters that Hamas treated her “gently” and that all the needs of the captives were met. 

Israeli officials later condemned the video as nothing more than propaganda, while others said Hamas may have had reason to treat high-profile captives with more care than others. 

As of this report, 160 hostages remain under the control of Hamas. The U.S. has been pushing for an extension of the most recent ceasefire for the sake of the remaining hostages.