Israel-Hamas war: what we know about the conditions of detention of the released Israeli hostages

The three Franco-Israeli children, Erez and Sahar Kalderon, 12 and 16 years old, and Eitan Yahalomi, 12 years old, released by Hamas on Monday November 27 are doing well, said Tuesday on RTL, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Catherine Colonna

Israel-Hamas war: what we know about the conditions of detention of the released Israeli hostages

The three Franco-Israeli children, Erez and Sahar Kalderon, 12 and 16 years old, and Eitan Yahalomi, 12 years old, released by Hamas on Monday November 27 are doing well, said Tuesday on RTL, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Catherine Colonna. “There is classic medical monitoring, as always in these cases, but they do not seem to have been tested beyond this terrible detention and what it may have represented in the psychological shock and difficulties of daily life. »

Since Friday, the Palestinian Islamist movement has released eighty-one hostages – twelve were released on Tuesday in exchange for prisoners held by Israel, after a fragile truce in the Gaza Strip was extended for two days. The first testimonies from hostages on their conditions of detention began to trickle in, often in an indirect and fragmented manner; they allow us to sketch an imprecise outline of what they experienced during these fifty days of captivity.

Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari said military authorities “met with every released hostage and collected all the information they could get from them.” However, he assures, “what we have learned will not be made public”. Those close to the hostages are also reluctant to give details of what their loved ones experienced, so as not to “increase the burden on the families whose members are still held hostage,” Noam and Alma's uncle explains to CNN However, released on Saturday.

One of the most accurate accounts of the living conditions of the hostages held by Hamas was given on Monday by 78-year-old Ruth Munder. She was released on the first day of the truce agreed between Hamas and the Israeli government on Friday, alongside her daughter, Keren, and 9-year-old grandson, Ohad. All three remained in the hands of the Palestinian Islamist movement for fifty days after their kidnapping on October 7 in the Nir Oz kibbutz.

Despite the fear, Ruth Munder said in an interview with the Israeli channel Channel 13 that she remained “optimistic”: “I understood that if we had been taken there, if we were alive, then we would be freed – they killed whoever they wanted in Nir Oz. »

She describes long and “very difficult” days in captivity. “It was stuffy, you couldn’t open the curtains; the boys went to bed late and the girls sometimes cried. » In this same televised testimony, Ruth Munder recounts having slept on “plastic chairs, as if [they] were waiting[were] in a hospital, without mattresses”. “The boys who were with us slept under the benches, on the floor,” Ms. Munder said. When a hostage wanted to go to the toilet, he had to request it by knocking on the door. “Sometimes they had to wait for permission for an hour and a half to two hours,” his niece, Merav Raviv, also reported to the Israeli English-language media Ynet News.

The 78-year-old woman also describes decent meals – “chicken with rice, canned goods and cheese” – with tea morning and evening and sweets distributed to the children. “We were getting by... until the economic situation started to deteriorate,” she told Channel 13. “There were days when there was no food,” she added. his niece, who spoke with all three members of her family. They were mostly fed rice and pita bread, she said, and her aunt and cousin each lost about 15 pounds during their captivity. All three, however, “were not tortured or mistreated,” said Ms. Raviv.

Released at the end of October after two weeks of captivity, Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, also assured, during a press conference organized independently of the authorities, that she had been well treated by her captors. “They were very generous to us, very kind. (…) They took all our needs into account, I salute them for that, they were very courteous. They made sure we were clean, that we ate. We ate the same thing as them,” she said, adding that she was fed pita bread, cheese and cucumber. “Every two days, a doctor came to examine us,” she adds. He brought us the medicines we needed. »

The doctors who took care of the hostages upon their release confirmed overall good general health, despite psychological trauma which remains to be assessed. During a press conference Tuesday morning, the director of the children's hospital at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, where released women and children were taken, said they were currently undergoing "a medical assessment to check their condition.”

“We can [already] say that the physical condition of all children and mothers is stable,” said Dror Mendel. The director of the children's department at the Schneider Children's Medical Center in Petah Tikva, who took care of four minors released on Friday, had already said during a press briefing on Saturday: “They are in good health. »

On Sunday evening, Soroka Hospital in Beersheba welcomed Alma Avraham, 84, and Mia Regev, 21. Alma Avraham, who did not receive her treatment during her captivity even though she suffered from a heart disease, according to her daughter, Tal, was admitted there in serious condition, under sedation and under ventilation. Mia Regev was injured in the leg during the Hamas attack during the rave party. On Tuesday, however, Dr. Moti Klein, director of the intensive care unit, told Ynet News that Ms. Avraham's condition had improved: “She is responding well to the treatment she was given and is recovering. »

Since Friday, several children, including three Franco-Israelis, have been released. Sacha Ghozlan, a lawyer for hostage families and co-founder of the October 7 Victims Association, spoke to relatives of Erez and Sahar Kalderon, who were released by Hamas on Monday, but did not speak with their mother , Hadas Kalderon. “No one really wants to disturb her,” he confides to Le Monde. He has no information on their conditions of detention: “They are children, they must be preserved, [especially] as their father is still hostage. »

For their part, the family of Eitan Yahalomi, the third French minor released on Monday at the same time as the Kalderon siblings, described a trying experience. His grandmother, Esther Yahami, told Israeli channel 12 that “for the first sixteen days he was alone (…) in a closed place. Then he was transferred to a group with people from [kibbutz] Nir Oz, among whom was his kindergarten nanny.”

On BFM-TV, Eitan's aunt, Deborah Cohen, said, from Israel but without specifying how she obtained these details, that the child had been forced to watch images of Hamas attacks. “When [Eitan] arrived in Gaza, all the residents beat him; he’s a 12-year-old,” she adds. According to her, “every time a child cried they threatened him with a gun to make him keep quiet.”

The father of Emily Hand, a 9-year-old Israeli-Irish girl also released on Saturday, told the American channel CNN that no one had hit them, but that the children could not make any noise and did not not much to do other than draw and play with a few cards. “Emily spoke in a low voice, to the point where it was really hard to hear her,” adds her father, Tom Hand.

“You can see the terror in his eyes,” he adds. Time perception is altered: Emily thought she had been detained for about a year. The girl was kidnapped on October 7 while she was at a friend's sleepover in Kibbutz Beeri. Tom Hand also explained that after the Israeli offensive began, his daughter was moved from house to house in “the box,” the word she uses to refer to Gaza.