Girl freed from Gaza without her mom says Hamas separated them, in breach of deal

Uncle says Raaya Rotem was with daughter Hila for most of the 50 days of captivity and in good condition, accuses Hamas of violating agreement not to split up mothers and children

Mother and daughter Raaya and Hila Rotem, taken captive by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023, from their home in Kibbutz Be'eri. Hila was released on November 26, 2023 and Raaya was released on November 29, 2023. (Courtesy)
Mother and daughter Raaya and Hila Rotem, taken captive by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023, from their home in Kibbutz Be'eri. Hila was released on November 26, 2023 and Raaya was released on November 29, 2023. (Courtesy)

Hila Rotem Shoshani, a 13-year-old girl who was released from Gaza captivity overnight Saturday without her mother, Raaya, told relatives that they were held hostage together until being separated two days before the release.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Hila’s uncle Yair Rotem said this contradicted Hamas claims that they did not know where Raaya, 54, was — and constituted a clear violation of the truce deal, under which the Gaza terror group committed not to separate mothers from their children.

Speaking from Sheba Hospital where Hila was being examined, Yair Rotem said, “Hila returned without her mother and that is a clear violation of the agreement with Hamas. We demand from Hamas and the mediators that Raaya be returned home as they agreed, immediately.”

“Hila told us she was in captivity together with her mother and Emily [Hand] until two days ago,” he said. “We know she was in good condition and expect her to remain in good condition.”

The mother and daughter, along with Irish-Israeli citizen Hand, 9, who was at a sleepover with Hila, were taken captive by Hamas terrorists who attacked their community of Kibbutz Be’eri on October 7, killing an estimated 10 percent of the residents, committing atrocities and kidnapping dozens as part of a wider assault in southern Israel that morning.

The three were hiding in the safe room of their home. Raaya wrote to her brother at 12:05 p.m., telling him that she and Hila were being abducted and taken to Gaza.

Hila Rotem, 13, is embraced by her uncle Yair Rotem as they reunite, in the early hours of November 26, 2023, after she was freed by Hamas. Her mother Raaya is still held hostage in Gaza. (Israel Defense Forces)

That was the last communication anyone had with Raaya or Hila.

The two weren’t confirmed as Hamas hostages until October 29, when their family was informed that they were officially captives in Gaza. Hand had also been presumed dead until then.

They were part of the second group of hostages freed as part of the temporary truce, consisting of eight children, four mothers, and a young woman. An Israeli man with Russian citizenship was also released under a separate Hamas deal with Moscow.

The 14 Israeli captives returned to Israel overnight Saturday following an hours-long, nerve-racking delay that threatened to scuttle the temporary truce agreement.

Four Thai nationals were also freed as part of a separate deal negotiated by Egypt, with the involvement of Qatar and Iran, after initial reports said that seven were set to be freed.

Most of the Israeli hostages released Saturday were from Be’eri, which was one of the communities hit hardest on October 7 when thousands of terrorists from Gaza invaded southern Israel and killed some 1,200 people, a majority of them civilians in their homes and at an outdoor music festival, and took more than 240 hostages.

Emily Hand (second from right) reunites with her father, Tom Hand (right) while Hila Rotem (second from left), whose mother is still held hostage, reunites with family members in the early hours of November 26, 2023. (Courtesy; clause 27a of the copyright law)

Speaking later to Channel 12, Yair Rotem said he hoped his sister would be included in the final batch of hostages expected to be released on Monday evening and reiterated his claim that Hamas was lying about Raaya.

“They were separated two days before the release. She managed to give her mother a hug. Raaya cried. It breaks your heart,” he said.

“The first thing that Hila told me when we met was ‘Look, Mom cut my hair while we were hostages,'” he said. “Emily also told us that they were together with Raaya all the time, and she looked after them.”

Yair Rotem also said that physically Hila was fine, talking and eating, but that she communicated in whispers. “She explained that they were constantly being told to whisper.”

He said he hoped that Israel and the mediators would pressure Hamas to release Raaya.

“I hope it will happen. It’s part of the agreement. Hamas broke the agreement with complete disregard for what was agreed. There are the Qatari and Egyptian mediators and I don’t know why they don’t check why Hamas isn’t keeping the agreement,” he said.

“Israel has to say this is unacceptable. You don’t separate a girl from her mother.”

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