ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 147

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Freed Israeli hostage reunites with Thai woman she met in Hamas captivity

Danielle Aloni and her 5-year-old daughter Emilia forged relationship with Nutthawaree Munkan, also seized by terror group; now free, they held a joyful video meeting

Thai national Nutthawaree Munkan, center, speaks via video call with Israeli Danielle Aloni, a virtual reunion for the two women after they were released from being hostages of the Hamas terror group, November 29, 2023. (Israel Foreign Ministry)
Thai national Nutthawaree Munkan, center, speaks via video call with Israeli Danielle Aloni, a virtual reunion for the two women after they were released from being hostages of the Hamas terror group, November 29, 2023. (Israel Foreign Ministry)

AP — In the depths of captivity, they formed an unlikely but prized friendship. And reunited in a video call this week, the bond between a recently freed Israeli mother and daughter and a Thai woman who had been held hostage alongside them filled an Israeli hospital room with unbridled joy.

“Both of us give you a big hug,” Danielle Aloni, one of the dozens snatched by Hamas terrorists from Kibbutz Nir Oz in southern Israel on October 7, told her friend Nutthawaree Munkan, an agricultural worker who was seized the same day and held captive in the Gaza Strip. “I love you and I told you while we were there that we are family.”

Aloni, 45, spoke in Hebrew in a five-minute video of the Wednesday meeting released by Israel’s Foreign Ministry. Nutthawaree, speaking from the hospital, replied in Thai — and with a flurry of air kisses and a wide smile that required no translation at all.

With her partner — another freed captive — looking on and a Thai-speaking Israeli psychologist assisting with the conversation, Nutthawaree waved at the screen as Aloni’s 5-year-old daughter, Emilia, sang to her. Nutthawaree, holding a small Israeli flag, counted to 10 on her fingers as Emilia recited her numbers in the Thai that Nutthawaree had taught her during the seven weeks they spent as hostages.

It was not clear where Aloni and her daughter were speaking from, but they have already been discharged from the hospital and returned to their home.

When Hamas led thousands of terrorists to storm into Israeli villages and towns just across the Gaza border, Aloni and her daughter were visiting her sister’s family at Kibbutz Nir Oz. A quarter of the community’s 400 residents were either kidnapped or killed.

Sharon Aloni Cunio and twin three-year-old daughters Yuli and Emma were also taken hostage and later released. The twins’ father David Aloni is still being held captive in Gaza.

Danielle Aloni, 44, and her daughter Emilia were visiting Aloni’s sister Sharon Alony Cunio and family when they were abducted from Kibbutz Nir Oz on October 7, 2023. They were released on November 24, 2023. (Courtesy)

In all, some 1,200 Israelis were killed during the massive Hamas assault, mostly civilians, and about 240 hostages of all ages were abducted to Gaza. Nearly 40 Thai agricultural workers were slain and another three dozen were kidnapped.

According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, Nutthawaree, 35, came to Israel in search of employment. While working on a farm in the community of Mivtachim, she met her partner, Bunthom Phankong. Both were taken captive on October 7.

The Thai hostages are being released in conjunction with the ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas that has seen Israeli hostages freed in exchange for Palestinian security prisoners held in Israel. Roughly three Palestinians have been released from prison for each of the Israeli hostages set free, all of whom were women and children. An Israeli-Russian man was also released as part of a separate arrangement between Hamas and Russia.

Nutthawaree, Bunthom, Aloni and her daughter were all released on Friday, the first day of the truce. Details of their time in captivity have not been made public and it was not clear if Nutthawaree and the Alonis spent the entire time together.

But on Wednesday, for a few minutes at least, the trauma of their shared ordeal was set aside.

“At the first opportunity, we will come to Thailand. What joy to see her like this,” Danielle Aloni said as psychologist Daniel Porat translated her words into Thai.

“She says that you are also beautiful and Emilia is beautiful,” the psychologist told Aloni on Nutthawaree’s behalf. “She misses you a lot.”

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