What Freed Hamas Hostages And Israel's Prisoners Have Said About Their Time In Imprisonment

A temporary truce – now expired – means people from both sides have spoken to the media.
A prisoner freed from Israeli jail (L) and a freed Hamas hostage reuniting with loved ones
A prisoner freed from Israeli jail (L) and a freed Hamas hostage reuniting with loved ones

The truce between Hamas and Israel ended on Friday morning – but the week-long ceasefire saw hundreds of prisoners and more than a hundred hostages set free.

The Palestinian militants released 100 of their 240 hostages as part of the truce deal, while Israel released 150 of its estimated 7,000 Palestinian prisoners, according to the Israeli human rights organisation HaMoked.

It was a pivotal moment in the ongoing war and one which brought relief to people on both sides.

But, there are many people still being held by both Israel and Hamas. Some reports also claim Israel arrested 133 more Palestinians after the truce begun.

While not many of those freed have taken the chance to speak to the media since, here’s a look at the snippets which have made it to the public sphere.

Hamas hostages

The 240 hostages – snatched from the Supernova music festival, from their home towns along Israel’s border with Gaza or from military bases on October 7 – have been a core part of the ongoing turmoil around the conflict.

There has been footage circulating on social media of some of the freed hostages appearing to say an amicable goodbye to their Hamas captors, but there has been speculation about how authentic this footage is.

Hamas claimed the hostages have been treated humanely and in line with Islamic teachings, but noted some were killed in Israeli air strikes.

One of the first to be released, 85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz, shook hands with a Hamas captor as she left, two weeks after she was captured. She was the first freed hostage to speak out.

According to a translation from AP News, she said the day was “a hell that we never knew before and never thought we would experience”.

Sky News’ translation claims she said: ″Each person had a guard watching him or her. They took care of all the needs.

“And if there were women here who know what feminine hygiene is, they make sure we get everything we needed.

“We talked about all kinds of things, they were very friendly.”

However, she later told Hebrew-language newspaper Davar that she had confronted Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar while in captivity, and asked if he was ashamed for acting violently against peace activists.

She said: “He didn’t answer. He was silent.”

Most hostages have been rushed to hospital away from the public eye.

While not all needed treatment, many experienced poor nutritional health and those with chronic diseases were denied medical treatment.

The rest of the freed hostages have been kept away from the media since release, but some family members have spoken out.

On Wednesday, the relatives claimed the freed hostages having spoken of being beaten and threatened with death.

Some relatives say the hostages were moved repeatedly and had to whisper while in captivity.

One person, Merav Mor Raviv, told Israel’s Channel 12 her family members were moved from place to place, both underground and above ground, and lost weight because food was sometimes scarce.

Deborah Cohen told France’s BFM TV how her 12-year-old nephew had been beaten by Gaza residents after arriving in the enclave.

Others said they found it difficult to communicate with their children after release because they are still speaking in whispers.

While in captivity, Israeli mother Dianiel Aloni wrote a letter to Hamas’ armed al-Qassam Brigades, before her release with her daughter, thanking them for treating her daughter well and giving her sweets and fruit.

Reuters said it was unable to contact her for comment after her release.

Palestinian prisoners

Those freed in the West Bank have been met with huge crowds celebrating their return, with some carrying the Palestinian flag and others carrying that used by Hamas.

But Reuters reported that a 17-year-old who was released this week, Laith Othman, told the media: “The situation inside [prison] is very difficult.”

Palestinians have reported overcrowding, restricted access to food and water, and limited family or lawyers visitations, as well as reported beatings and abuse from the guards.

According to Israel’s records, more than half were detained without charge.

Another prisoner, Ahed Tamimi, 22, who was just released, went into more detail.

According to a translation from Middle East Monitor, she told the media there was “no water, no food, no nothing, not even clothes” and they sleep on the floor in “horrible conditions” in prison.

She alleged they were beaten, and said Israeli guards threatened to hurt her relatives – who are still imprisoned – if she spoke out about the conditions in prison.

Meanwhile, an Al Jazeera journalist said earlier this week she had interviewed a group of Palestinian teenagers who had been released from Israeli prison.

However, in her broadcast, the journalist claimed they later requested the interviews be retracted after the Israeli officer in charge of their village contacted them, and allegedly threatened to take them back to prison.

The UN Human Rights Office in occupied Palestinian territories has said it is “seriously concerned” about Israel’s increased arrest of Palestinians, and called for an investigation into allegations of torture in Israeli custody.

Israel has arrested more than 3,000 Palestinians in the West Bank since the war began in Gaza.

A record high number were being held without charge or trial, according to the UN workers, and in the last two months, six Palestinian men have died in Israeli custody.

That’s the highest number of cases in such a short period in decades, according to the officials.

The UN report also said this raises “serious questions about Israel’s compliance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law”.

“All cases of deaths in custody and allegations of torture and other ill-treatment must be investigated and accountability ensured,” it added.

Israel’s Prison Service said that prisoners are detained according to the “provisions of the law”, and the deaths were being investigated.


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