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'A Very, Very Long Way to Go Before They Are Healed': What Former Hamas Hostages Endured

Ruth Munder, a released Israeli hostage, walks with an Israeli soldier shortly after her arrival in Israel on Friday, Nov. 24, 2023. (IDF via AP)

Sleeping on plastic chairs, living in constant darkness with sparse food – some of the horrific conditions and psychological torture endured by Hamas' hostages are coming to light.

As CBN News reported, women and children were abused in captivity, and some victims were forced to watch videos of the savage brutality committed against their loved ones on October 7.

As Reuters reports, Hamas hostages tell horror stories of beatings and death threats. 

"Every time a child cried there, they threatened them with a weapon to make them be quiet. Once they got to Gaza, all the civilians, everyone was hitting them ... We're talking about a child 12 years old," said Deborah Cohen whose 12-year-old nephew Eitan Yahalomi was a victim.

"You can see the terror in her eyes," Thomas Hand, the father of nine-year-old Emily Hand, told CNN. "Last night she cried until her face was red, she couldn't stop. She didn't want any comfort, I guess she forgot how to comfort herself. She got under the covers, covered herself, and cried quietly."

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slider img 2One of the older hostages apparently fared better, telling a media outlet how she and others were treated after being abducted at gunpoint by the Palestinian terrorists. 

Ruti Munder, 78, told Israel's Channel 13 television during an interview that she spent the entirety of her time with her daughter, Keren, and grandson, Ohad Munder-Zichri, who turned 9 years old while in captivity. 

Her account, broadcast Monday, adds to the small amount of information about the experience of captives held in Gaza. Munder is one of more than 80 hostages released by Hamas under a temporary ceasefire with Israel. The Jewish state has said around 240 hostages were kidnapped by the terrorists during the Oct. 7 attack on Israel. For its part of the deal, Israel has released 180 Palestinian prisoners, including convicted terrorists, according to NPR

The Israeli hostages have remained out of the public eye since their release. Most of the details about their ordeal have been relayed to media outlets by relatives. 

Munder was kidnapped on Oct. 7 from her home in Nir Oz, a kibbutz in southern Israel. Her husband, Avraham, also 78, was taken hostage too and remains in Gaza. Her son was killed during the mass terrorist attack.

Munder told Channel 13 in an audio-only interview that, at first, the hostages were fed "chicken with rice, all sorts of canned food and cheese."

At the beginning of their nearly two months in captivity, the grandmother said they were given tea, and the children were given candy. But food became more sparse when their captors started feeling the repercussions of Israel's response.

While Munder's health held up under the stark conditions, one of the released hostages, an 84-year-old woman, has been hospitalized in life-threatening condition after not receiving proper care in captivity, doctors said. Another freed captive needed surgery.

Slept on Plastic Chairs or the Floor

Munder confirmed what other former hostages have told their relatives about sleeping on plastic chairs.  She said she covered herself with a sheet but that not all captives had one.

Boys who were also being held would stay up late chatting, while some of the girls would cry, she said. Some boys slept on the floor.

She said she would try to sleep late to pass the time. The room where she was held was "suffocating," and the captives were prevented from opening the blinds, but she managed to crack open a window.

"It was very difficult," she said.

Israel declared war after the Islamic terror group's cross-border attack on Oct. 7 in which 1,400 Israelis were murdered, including 35 Americans. Hundreds of others were wounded or taken hostage.

Munder said that on Oct. 7, she was put in a vehicle with her family and driven into Gaza. While in captivity, she learned from a member of Hamas who listened to the radio that her son was killed, according to the Channel 13 report.

She told the outlet she still had hope they would be freed. 

Former Hostages Undergoing Physical and Psychological Tests 

Mostly women and children were in the latest round of releases. They have been undergoing physical and psychological evaluation at Israeli hospitals before returning home. 

Mirit Regev, whose 21-year-old daughter, Maya, was freed Sunday, told Israeli public broadcaster Kan that the family has been counseled to "return the power to her" in their interactions by always asking her for permission before things occur, such as leaving the room. Regev's 18-year-old son, Itai, is still being held by Hamas.

Itai Pessach, director of the Edmond and Lily Safra Children's Hospital at Sheba Medical Center, where many of the released children have been treated, said he felt some optimism because the hostages were physically recovering. But he said medical staff had heard "very difficult and complex stories from their time in Hamas captivity," without elaborating.

"We understand that despite the fact that they might seem physically improving, there's a very, very long way to go before they are healed," he said.

Hamas Still Holds 160 Hostages, Including 9 Americans

Around 160 hostages are still being held by Hamas, and an estimated 100 of them are Israeli civilians, according to NPR. Some of the rest of the hostages are soldiers who were also kidnapped from Israel. 

In addition, there are nine Americans still being held hostage by Hamas, the White House said Monday. So far, the terror organization has only released one American – four-year-old Abigail Edan, an Israeli-American. Hamas murdered her parents in front of her during the massacre on Oct. 7.

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