Hamas Is Waging a War of Propaganda To Convince the World the Hostages Were Treated Well, Yet Freed Israelis Report the Opposite — in Harrowing Detail

Some hostages are held in dark tunnels, not seeing sunlight for more than 50 days. Children were forced to watch footage of the massacre and threatened if they cried.

AP/Leo Correa
A mini-bus carrying Israeli hostages released by Hamas and Israeli military personnel at the Sheba Medical Center at Ramat Gan, Israel, November 30, 2023. AP/Leo Correa

Some hostages were held in dark tunnels, not seeing sunlight for 50-plus days. Others were confined in attics or apartments, moved frequently, and given inadequate food and water. The elderly were deprived of life-sustaining medications. Children were forced to watch footage of the October 7 massacre and threatened if they cried, the aunt of a released child hostage, Eitan Yahalomi, told France’s BFM TV.

Two Israeli brothers, Yagil and Or Yaakov, ages 12 and 16, were branded by the exhaust pipes of a motorcycle so Hamas could easily identify them if they escaped, their uncle said Thursday, according to the Times of Israel. 21-year-old Mia Schem was operated on by a Gazan veterinarian and forced to make a hostage video, her aunt told Israeli press. Some female hostages were kept in cages, according to the Hostages and Missing Families Forum.

As the 105 hostages released by Hamas as part of this past week’s brokered pause in fighting reunite with their surviving relatives, reports on the conditions of their captivity are starting to emerge. The details are harrowing.

Hostilities resumed Friday morning as Qatari-brokered hostage release negotiations between Israel and Hamas broke down, ending the weeklong pause in fighting. What will be the fate of the remaining 137 hostages held in Gaza? The majority of these are men, though 28 are women, according to the Jewish Press. A handful of children are still being held captive.

Among the women still held hostage is 26-year-old Israeli, Noa Argamani, whose terminally ill mother released a video this week begging Hamas to release her daughter before she passes. One of the first October 7 attack videos released by Hamas shows terrorists kidnapping Ms. Argamani on a motorcycle as she reaches out for help, screaming, “Don’t kill me.” Her condition is unknown.

Another of these women is 19-year-old Israeli, Na’ama Levy, who was seen in one of the first October 7 Hamas videos being dragged out of the back of a Jeep in Gaza, her hands tied behind her back, her ankle slashed, blood pooling between the legs of her gray sweatpants. Her condition is unknown.

Despite reports of inhumane treatment of hostages, though, Hamas is waging a war of propaganda to convince the world they treated the hostages well. In several of the early hostage release videos, women and children wave goodbye to their captors. They were instructed to do so, according to the Times of Israel. Hamas filmed these releases.  

In another hostage release video, a young man shakes the hand of one of his captors. This video and the text, “This dap will be captured in the history books as the final blow to the z!on!st propaganda campaigns,” got 107,000 likes on X, formerly Twitter. This is one of many posts claiming Hamas is treating the hostages well.

The Israeli hostages released this past week have largely stayed out of the public eye, but some relatives are speaking out. These relatives say they are reluctant to share the most disturbing details of their relative’s ordeals in part because many have other family members still being held in Gaza and they fear reprisals.

These family members also say they are reluctant to press their relatives for more details so soon and open traumatic wounds. The physical and psychological healing process for these hostages will take time. The dramatic scale of sexual violence perpetrated by Hamas on October 7 is only now becoming clear. It won’t be surprising if similar acts were perpetrated against female hostages. 

While most of the hostages who’ve been released are relatively physically unharmed, the reports we do have of physical and psychological abuse are damning. 

The aunt of 12-year-old Eitan Yahalomi, who was released by Hamas Monday, says he was beaten by civilians on the street when Hamas terrorists first brought him to Gaza. She told French television station BFM TV that Eitan and other children were forced to watch October 7 attack videos.

“They forced him to watch that. Maybe I’m naïve but I wanted to hope that he was well treated, but apparently not. They’re monsters,” Eitan’s aunt, Deborah Cohen, said. “Each time a child cried there, they threatened them with a weapon so that they would shut up. When he arrived into Gaza, civilians, everyone beat him up when he got there. He’s a 12 year old child. We’re talking about a 12 year old child here. How can anyone be fine after an experience like that one?”  

Eitan’s mother and sisters escaped on October 7, but his father was shot and taken captive. His whereabouts and condition are unknown.

The uncle of Yagil and Or Yaakov told Israel’s foreign minister, Eli Cohen, at an event in North Macedonia that his 12- and 16-year-old nephews were drugged and branded while held by Hamas. “They told us stories about what they went through inside Gaza. The stories are horrible,” Mr. Yaakov said, according to the Times of Israel..

“Each child that was taken by Hamas was taken on a motorbike and they took every child, took his leg and put it on the exhaust of that motorbike, so they have a burn so they will be marked if they run, if they escape, so [Hamas] can find them,” Mr. Yaakov said. “They were drugged, they were treated so bad, but at least they are with us.”

Three-year-old Israeli American Avigail Idan — the only American hostage released so far — watched Hamas terrorists murder her parents on October 7 and then ran to a neighbor’s house covered in blood, before being taken by Hamas. Her aunt, Tal Idan, told the New York Times that Avigail was held with four other hostages in above-ground apartments, moving at least once.

Ms. Idan said the five hostages were given one piece of za’atar pita bread per day to share. Avigail returned to Israel on Sunday infested with lice and malnourished. The psychological trauma of watching her parents murdered and then being held prisoner for 50 days is incalculable.

84-year-old Elma Avraham was released by Hamas Sunday and immediately airlifted to an Israeli hospital in critical condition. She was denied lifesaving medication while in captivity and was barely conscious with an extremely low body temperature when Hamas turned her over, according to the Times of Israel

The Red Cross says it has been denied access to hostages. That isn’t stopping her family from blasting the Red Cross and other humanitarian agencies.

“They abandoned my mother from a health perspective,” Ms. Avraham’s daughter, Tal Amano, said. “My mother didn’t have to return like this. It was neglect during her entire period there. She didn’t receive her life saving medications. She was abandoned twice, once on October 7 and a second time by all the organizations that should have saved her and prevented her condition.”

The father of nine-year-old Irish-Israeli Emily Hand told CNN his daughter is struggling after being released by Hamas on Saturday. “The most shocking, disturbing part of meeting her was she was just whispering. You couldn’t hear her. I had to put my ear on her lips,” Thomas Hand said.

Mr. Hand said it was difficult to tell his daughter that her second mother was murdered by Hamas terrorists on October 7. Emily’s birth mother died when she was two years old. He said Emily has forgotten how to be comforted when she cries and that she thought she was in captivity for a year.

 “So apart from the whispering, that was like a punch in the gut,” Mr. Hand said.

An unnamed Thai national, released by Hamas this week, told Israel’s Channel 12 that Israelis were treated more harshly than foreign nationals. “I was with Israelis, and there were guards all the time. The Jews who were with me were treated more harshly. Sometimes they were beaten with electrical cables,” the Thai national said.

Journalist Almog Boker of Israeli Channel 13 posted to X Wednesday claiming one of the freed hostages he spoke with was held for 50 days at the home of a teacher for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. “This teacher locked the victim away, barely provided food, and neglected medical needs,” Mr. Boker posted to X. He said another hostage was held in the apartment of a Gazan doctor.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East issued a statement Friday calling on Mr. Boker to release evidence. “In the absence of credible information to support this claim, the relief agency requests that the journalist immediately deletes the post,” the statement says. 

Hamas has an incentive to keep hostages alive to use them as bargaining chips, and it has released footage of Hamas terrorists holding babies and appearing to dote on the young. Several hostages, though, have already died in Gaza.

Hamas’s military wing claimed Wednesday that the youngest Israeli hostage, 10-month-old Kfir Bibas, as well as his four-year-old brother and mother, were killed by Israeli shelling in Gaza. The Israeli Defense Forces says it is investigating these claims. Hamas uploaded a hostage video to social media Thursday of the boys’ father, Yarden Bibas, as he is told that his wife and children are dead.

The road to recovery for these hostages will be long. Many are returning to learn that family members were murdered. The outlook for the hostages still being held by Hamas is dimmer today. The bombing and propaganda campaigns are raging on.   

Hamas released a letter Monday allegedly written by Danielle Aloni, who was held hostage with her five-year-old daughter, thanking Hamas for its “extraordinary humanity” and for treating her daughter “like a queen.” Ms. Aloni and her daughter were released last Friday. Her family has dismissed the letter as “propaganda.”Just before Hamas released Mia Schem to the Red Cross on Thursday, they filmed her in a van saying, “People very good. Very kind to me.” Video of her wails upon reuniting with her mother on Israeli soil are likely a better indication of the truth.

The New York Sun

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