I’ve covered a couple of these stories in the past few weeks. Chen Goldstein-Almog became a hostage after Hamas murdered her husband and eldest daughter in front of her. She and her surviving children were not physically harmed but she did meet with other hostages including women who’d been sexually abused.
Earlier this week I wrote about Mia Schem who was shot in the arm, groped and then kidnapped and held for weeks, first in a family house and later in tunnels beneath Gaza. Schem believes the only reason she wasn’t raped by her captor is that his wife and family were living in the next room.
Today CNN has published an interview with former hostage Doron Katz Asher. As with all of these stories, it started with murder.
Asher, her mother and daughters, 5-year-old Raz and 2-year-old Aviv, were thrown into the back of a tractor with other hostages from the kibbutz, before gunmen opened fire. Asher was shot in her back; Aviv was shot in the leg; her mother was shot dead.
She and her two children were taken to Gaza and held their for nearly 50 days. The first 16 days they were held in a house but then they were moved to a “so-called hospital.”
After 16 days, Asher and her daughters were taken from the apartment to what she described as a “so-called” hospital in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis. Why “so-called”?
Because a hospital is “a place that is supposed to take care of people, but instead it was taken over by Hamas and they used it to hide hostages,” Asher said…
When Aviv contracted a fever, Asher put her in the sink with cold water to bring her temperature down. “She was screaming. They would tell us to keep quiet, but the girl had a fever and I had to take care of her somehow.” They remained in the hospital for nearly five weeks.
Finally, she was moved away from the hospital. At the time she wasn’t told where they were going but the streets were lined with angry people who were shouting and throwing things at the car. It turned out she was being released. She explained how this was carefully stage managed by Hamas.
“It’s one big show,” Asher said. “Before I was released, my girls and I were barefoot for 50 days. We were cold because they were wearing short sleeves in November.” But before they were handed over to Red Cross staff, they were given shoes and Hamas members “put me in a nice dress,” Asher said.
There are still 106 Israeli hostages in Gaza plus another 23 whose bodies have been found there. Has has said that no more hostages will be released unless their demands for a ceasefire are met.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said that hostages who were abducted from Israel will only be freed from Gaza under conditions set by the group. In a televised address, Ismail Haniyeh said, “The enemy’s prisoners will only be released on terms set by the resistance.”
The group has delivered its position to Qatar and Egypt which is based on “a complete cessation of the aggression” against the Palestinians, helping them and responding to their rightful demands, he said, adding, “Hostages will not be released except under the resistance’s conditions.”
Any deal that might have been under consideration is probably scuttled now that Israel assassinated Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri in Beirut. It’s an impossible situation for Israel. If they don’t pursue Hamas, the group and its militants have already vowed to attack Israel again. If they do kill the militants they risk losing the hostages. Hamas’ plan from the start was to hide behind civilians, both Israelis and their own people (hence hiding hostages at a hospital).