Hostage freed in rescue op says Hamas guards threatened to murder him in captivity

Andrey Kozlov recalls captor telling him he was to be filmed for propaganda video and then executed, describes enduring psychological damage from eight months in Gaza

Andrey Kozlov speaks to Channel 12 in a clip that aired July 8, 2024. (Screen capture/Channel 12)
Andrey Kozlov speaks to Channel 12 in a clip that aired July 8, 2024. (Screen capture/Channel 12)

Andrey Kozlov, who was freed from Hamas captivity last month along with three other hostages in an Israeli rescue operation, said his Hamas guards had convinced him that they would kill him in captivity.

Kozlov, 27, conducted a series of interviews with Hebrew media for the first time since he was rescued on June 8.

He was one of 251 hostages abducted to the Gaza Strip by Hamas terrorists during their devastating October 7 attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

Kozlov was rescued along with 21-year-old Almog Meir Jan and 40-year-old Shlomi Ziv by Israeli special forces who raided the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza. All three were seized on October 7 along with dozens of others at the Nova outdoor music festival where terrorists massacred over 360 people.

Another Israeli hostage, 26-year-old Noa Argamani, was rescued from a nearby building during the same operation.

Kozlov, who moved from Russia to Israel some 18 months prior to October 7, conducted the interviews in broken English.

“In some moments, I was sure that they took us for killing, for murdering and filming this process,” he told Channel 12, which released a preview of an interview that will air in full on Friday.

Rescued hostages Almog Meir Jan, Andrey Kozlov and Shlomi Ziv are seen on a IAF helicopter after being extricated from the Gaza Strip, June 8, 2024. (Screenshot: Israel Defense Forces)

Kozlov recalled a man with a beard and no mustache coming one day and removing the blindfold he was forced to wear. Kozlov was then told that he would be filmed the next day in a propaganda video and then killed by his captor.

“I was like, so that will be [the end] of my story… Really?” he told Channel 12.

Speaking to Channel 13, Kozlov said the fear of being killed constantly weighed over him. His captors always had a big knife on them and he was often tied up.

“Maybe in one minute, maybe in one hour, maybe a day, maybe a week, you can die,” he said, recalling that he had “a lot of disgusting terrible feelings every day.”

“I felt only one goal — that I need to survive and come back home,” Kozlov said.

He said his time in captivity was so emotionally trying that he now has a hard time feeling anything since his rescue.

“My source of feelings is empty. Now, I understand everything in my mind, but a lot of things I don’t feel here,” he said, pointing to his heart.

Screen capture from video of rescued hostage Andrey Kozlov speaking with Channel 13. (Channel 13. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

In an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth, Kozlov said his Hamas captors constantly told him and the other hostages that the Israeli government wanted them to die and that they would be killed if the IDF tried to rescue them.

He quipped that the captors didn’t recognize the dissonance in claiming that Israel didn’t care about the hostages while also suggesting that the IDF might come and rescue them.

He said that while in captivity he kept reminding himself that the most important thing was to return to his parents and family alive.

“I told myself all the time: ‘Alive, well, and health,'” he recalled.

Kozlov also described the moment when his rescuers first enabled him to speak directly with his parents.

“When they asked me if I wanted to talk by phone with Mom and Dad, that was the limit for me. I cried to her ‘Mama! I was saved twice from death,'” meaning the massacre at the Nova festival and the eight months in captivity.

Both Channel 13 and Yedioth also released previews of full interviews to be published over the weekend.

Andrey Kozlov (C), freed from Gaza in an Israeli military operation a day earlier, meets with his parents at Sheba Medical Center, June 9, 2024. (Hostage and Missing Families Forum)

Kozlov’s parents have previously spoken to the media about the torment their son experienced in captivity, reinforcing media reports of the psychological abuse the hostages suffered.

“Andrey told us: ‘There are some things I will never tell you.’ I don’t know what he didn’t tell us and what he doesn’t want to ever tell us,” his mother Evgeniia Kozlova said last month.

Hostages were given strict rules on how to behave and were punished if they violated any of them.

She said the guards had frequently abused the prisoners verbally. “They liked to tell them: ‘You’re an animal, you’re a donkey, you’re a fool, you’re dirty.’ Andrey now knows these words perfectly well in Arabic — everything about Arabic swear words he has learned well.”

Speaking to The New York Times, Kozlova said the captors had told Andrey: “Your mom is on vacation in Greece. Your mom doesn’t know about you at all — and doesn’t want to know.”

The terrorists had also persuaded him and the other hostages that their girlfriends were dating other men, she told British outlet The Telegraph.

Rescued hostage Andrey Kozlov looks at his phone at Sheba Medical Center on June 8, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Father Mikhail told the Kan public broadcaster that Andrey had described one guard as being particularly cruel and mentally disturbed, abusing him one day and the next saying, “I love you.”

“This was psychological terror that was intended to cause the hostages to feel the most unease” and to “break them mentally,” Mikhail said.

An Israel doctor who treated the four hostages after their rescue said they were frequently beaten while in captivity.

Israel responded to the Hamas attack with a military offensive in Gaza to destroy the terror group, topple its regime, and free the hostages.

It is believed that 116 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — though the IDF has confirmed the deaths of 42 of them — after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November, and four hostages were released prior to that. Seven hostages have been rescued by troops alive, and the bodies of 19 hostages have also been recovered, including three mistakenly killed by the military.

One more person is listed as missing since October 7, and their fate is still unknown.

Hamas is also holding two Israeli civilians who entered the Strip in 2014 and 2015, as well as the bodies of two IDF soldiers who were killed in 2014.

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