Freed hostage says she saw photo of Gilad Shalit in Gaza room where she was held

Filipino-born Noralin Agojo recalls terrorists hauled her to the enclave in a van filled with the bodies of murdered Israelis: ‘I didn’t see their faces, didn’t turn around’

Freed hostage Noralin Agojo, 60, who was released on November 28, 2023, as part of a temporary ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas. (Courtesy)
Freed hostage Noralin Agojo, 60, who was released on November 28, 2023, as part of a temporary ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas. (Courtesy)

Freed hostage Noralin Agojo, 60, said Tuesday that a photo of Gilad Shalit hung in the small room where Hamas held her captive with two other women.

“Every day was like hell,”  Filipino-born Agojo, who was released on November 28 as part of a temporary ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas, told the Kan public broadcaster.

“In the room where we were held, I saw a picture of Gilad Shalit,” she said, without speculating as to why his photo was placed there.

Shalit, an IDF soldier who was captured by Hamas in a 2006 cross-border attack, endured five years of captivity in Gaza before being freed in a deal that saw the release of 1,027 Palestinian security prisoners.

Shalit reportedly reached out to families of the hostages in the days following Hamas’s onslaught on October 7, when terrorists stormed the border with Israel, killing some 1,200 people and abducting around 253, mostly civilians.

Agojo was taken captive from Kibbutz Nirim during a stay at her friends’ home in the agricultural community. She and her Israeli husband, Gideon Babani, traveled from their home in Yehud on October 6 ahead of the celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the kibbutz.

Released Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit (second right), walks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (second left), then-defense minister Ehud Barak (left), and ex-chief of staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz (right), at the Tel Nof air base in southern Israel, October 18, 2011. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry/Flash90)

On October 7, terrorists raided Nirim, murdering Babani and taking Agojo captive.

“I thought he [Babani] was alive all that time,” she told Kan. “I prayed every day… I sort of talked with him and said to him, ‘Hold my hand, we will meet, we will return.’ I thought he was there [in Gaza] as well.”

On October 7, separated from her husband and at the mercy of five terrorists aiming guns at her, Agojo pleaded with the men and held up her cross necklace.

“I showed them the cross and told them I was Filipino. ‘Please not me, I have a family,'” she remembered saying.

“They took me in a car, I was there alone… in the back of the van were bodies of murdered Israelis, but I didn’t see their faces, I didn’t turn around,” she continued.

Noralin Agojo was taken captive by Hamas terrorists from Kibbutz Nirim on October 7, 2023. She was released on November 28. (Courtesy)

In Gaza, Agojo was placed into a small room with two other women, Irena Tati and Karina Engel-Bart, who were also released during the November truce.

After the first night of captivity, the women’s captors transferred them to another location where they were fed a meager meal of pita or corn once a day.

“One day they filmed us and gave us meat from above to show that they were giving us good food. I told Karina that ‘this is their propaganda,'” said Agojo.

Agojo said that three women barely slept amid the explosions they heard outside. They spoke to each other in quiet whispers about their families, the possibility of freedom and the fear of being killed by their captors.

“I heard the booms and kept thinking that there was no ceasefire and that maybe we would stay there, all kinds of bad thoughts,” she said.

Israelis visit a memorial bearing portraits of people taken hostage or killed in the Hamas attack on the Supernova music festival on October 7 at the site of the festival near Kibbutz Re’השמim in southern Israel on April 10, 2024. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

The three had no access to a shower until their 23rd day in captivity. After asking for a shower, their captors placed a small bucket of water in front of the women, but by the time Agojo’s turn came to wash herself, there was barely any left.

In order not to lose track of time, Agojo said Engel-Bart marked every passing day by putting a crumpled piece of toilet paper into a cup.

Hamas and other terror groups are believed to still be holding 129 of the 253 hostages abducted during its October 7 massacre in southern Israel, not all of whom are alive.

An unconfirmed Channel 12 report on Monday said Hamas was prepared to free fewer than 20 “humanitarian” hostages, meaning children, women, the elderly and the sick.

The report said Hamas claims not to hold 40 living “humanitarian” hostages, the number called for in a previous proposal. It quoted an Israeli official saying that the response underlines that Hamas’s Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar “does not want an agreement, and is seeking an escalation of regional conflict.”

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