'They told me to be quiet because otherwise they’d kill me'

Freed hostage Itay Regev: Gazan doctor pulled bullet from my leg without anesthesia

Regev, 19, in London to meet with British lawmakers and urge better international efforts to release remaining captives, tells BBC of horrific abuse at hands of terrorists

Itay Regev visits the site where he and his sister Maya were kidnapped on October 7 at the Supernova music festival, January 5, 2024. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
Itay Regev visits the site where he and his sister Maya were kidnapped on October 7 at the Supernova music festival, January 5, 2024. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

Highlighting the cruelty shown by terrorist captors, freed hostage Itay Regev described to British media how a bullet was pulled from his leg in an operation without anesthesia while captors abused and threatened to kill him if he made any noise.

Regev, who was in London to advocate for the  hostages still held in Gaza — including his close friend Omer Shem Tov — said in an interview with the BBC published Wednesday he made the trip in order to “scream their cries from Gaza,” and demand the international community do more to free the remaining 130 hostages.

Regev has recounted some of his experiences before, but his interview with the BBC provides the most explicit and harrowing account yet of his time in captivity.

Regev, 19, was abducted along with his sister Maya, 21, from the Supernova music festival on October 7 when the Palestinian terror group Hamas attacked Israel in an assault that killed 1,200 people in the south of the country, mostly civilians, amid horrific atrocities of widespread gang rape, torture, and mutilation of victims.

At the music festival, terrorists massacred 364 people, gang-raped others, and abducted dozens to Gaza, among them the Regevs who were both shot in the legs as they tried to escape the carnage. In total, terrorists abducted 253 people from Israel during the massive assault, among them the elderly and children.

Regev said he and his sister were trying to escape in a car along with other vehicles carrying desperate festival-goers when they encountered a van full of terrorists who were “spraying all the vehicles with bullets without any mercy. I got shot in my leg. My sister also got shot in the leg.”

“And the terrorists got out of the van. They pulled me out, they tied my hands, and simply started driving into Gaza,” he recalled, adding that he thought he would be immediately slaughtered as captors made throat-slitting gestures to him.

“I saw my sister Maya injured and crying. Maya also that day said goodbye to me and told me if I come out of this alive, tell our parents that she loves them. This is a day I will never forget for the rest of my life,” he said.

It would be the last time the siblings saw each other until they were reunited after their release.

A person holds a poster of Vivian Silver, top center, as medical staff and health professionals attend a demonstration in front of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in London on Nov. 9, 2023, calling for an immediate intervention in the case of the hostages kidnapped from Israel on Oct. 7. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)

Regev said he was loaded into a pickup truck and taken to Gaza. When he arrived he was driven through the streets and paraded in front of laughing and cheering Gazans, while “the terrorists started shouting and screaming and celebrating. It was like a big party.”

The hostages were brought to a house with a shaft leading down into a tunnel, part of the vast network of underground passages Hamas has dug under Gaza.

From there, he was taken to a hospital where a “very, very anxious” doctor,  alongside several Hamas operatives, removed a bullet from his leg without any anesthesia or painkillers.

“They put the forceps into my leg and they pulled out the bullet without anesthesia. They told me to be quiet because if I wasn’t quiet they’d kill me,” he said. “In all that time there was more abuse, slaps to the face, spitting.”

Following the surgery he was moved to a safe house, being disguised as a corpse or in a burqa usually worn by women, for the journey.

He was kept in a locked room without sunlight, and fed “cans with food and every so often some pita to eat.” he said.

Captors “would torture me by telling me that other hostages had been killed in IDF airstrikes and that the Israeli government didn’t care about me,” he said. “And every day and every moment I would think about my family and my parents.”

Regev underlined the complicity of Gaza civilians in assisting Hamas and said a family who was looking after him would let their children come in to look at him, “point at my wounds.”

“I felt like I was their trophy and like no one in Gaza cared about me,” he said. “No one that I met is innocent.”

Maya was also given surgery in Gaza for her injuries. Her foot, which was dangling from her leg, was reattached but at an unnatural angle. She is now going through extensive rehabilitation to enable her to walk again.

Though the siblings were kept apart during their captivity they were permitted to communicate via notes that captors carried between them.

The reunion of siblings Maya and Itay Regev, released from Gaza days apart, at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, November 30, 2023, in handout photos by the hospital. (Courtesy)

Regev described being “very, very hungry” and believing he would die.

“I didn’t have a shower for 54 days,” Regev told the BBC. “My captors were very, very vicious. They didn’t care. I had wounds in my legs, big holes in my legs… you lived there in a horrific sense of fear. Every second that you live with this feeling is a terrible feeling, that you don’t really know if you’re going to wake up in the morning.”

There was fear of being inadvertently killed in an Israeli strike or if captors were “going to come in with a Kalashnikov and start spraying us with bullets. The conditions are very, very difficult there.”

Regev and Maya were released during a truce in late November. The Regevs have previously described the conditions of their captivity to Israeli media. Their accounts match those of other freed hostages who have described the dire conditions and abuse captives suffer.

Itay Regev, who was to meet with British MPs in London,  charged that the international community was not doing enough on behalf of the hostages.

“The hostages have been there for five months now. The answer is unequivocally, no they’re not doing enough,” he said.

“For five months not to see the sunlight and you don’t know what’s happening with your family, for five months to be in horrific conditions and hungry,” he said. “They have to be taken out of there as quickly as possible. They have the horrible feeling of not knowing what their fate will be from one second to the next.”

Omer Shem-Tov, taken captive in Gaza by Hamas terrorists on October 7, as they assaulted the Supernova desert rave. (Courtesy)

“I think we should do anything we possibly can to get them out of there, whatever the cost… It’s people’s lives,” Regev said. “I’m sure if anyone had their child kidnapped, they wouldn’t really care about what price needed to be paid. We need to return the hostages at any cost.”

“I was there with him,” he said of his friend Omer. “I know exactly how he is feeling and I want to shout his cry on his behalf because he can’t do it himself. He’s helpless.”

Freed hostages and their supporters have engaged in an international advocacy drive to raise awareness and support for releasing the captives.

Israel responded to the Hamas attack with a military offensive to topple the Hamas regime in Gaza, destroy the terror group, and free the hostages. Israel has assessed that around 30 of those still being held are no longer alive.

The war in Gaza last paused fighting during the weeklong truce in late November, leading to the release of 105 civilians, almost all of them women and children, in late November. In return, Israel released 240 Palestinian security prisoners held in Israeli jails while humanitarian aid to Gaza was also increased.

Three hostages have been rescued by Israeli troops amid intense fighting in Gaza over the last five months.

Troops operating in the Gaza Strip in an undated photo released for publication by the military on March 12, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)

Though talks for another truce that would see more hostages released have so far failed to reach an agreement, Qatari and Egyptian mediators believe significant progress has been made this week.

The IDF has overrun most of the Gaza enclave alongside intense airstrikes in a campaign that has killed over 31,000 people, according to Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. These numbers cannot be independently verified and are believed to include over 13,000 terror operatives who were killed in battle as well as Gazans who were killed by terror groups’ misfired rockets. The IDF also killed more than 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on and immediately after October 7.

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