Hostages Ziv, Kozlov and Meir Jan’s ordeal ‘beyond anything you can imagine’

In fresh testimony, doctors and relatives detail how they were held in the dark, locked in bathrooms and repeatedly threatened with death

Hostages Almog Meir Jan and Andrey Kozlov are seen being rescued by forces of the Yamam unit, in central Gaza's Nuseirat, June 8, 2024. (Israel Police)
Hostages Almog Meir Jan and Andrey Kozlov are seen being rescued by forces of the Yamam unit, in central Gaza's Nuseirat, June 8, 2024. (Israel Police)

Three hostages rescued by the army over the weekend suffered repeated physical and psychological abuse during eight months in Hamas captivity in Gaza, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing the abductees’ relatives as well as Israeli security and medical officials.

According to the Journal, Almog Meir Jan, Shlomi Ziv, and Andrey Kozlov were held in a single dark room for six months and had no contact with the outside world except for their interactions with their captors.

Punishments for failure to comply with their captors’ strict orders included being locked in the bathroom and being buried under blankets in the intense heat, the Journal said. The guards also abused the hostages psychologically, repeatedly threatening to kill them and telling them nobody would come for them or even cared about them.

It was unclear where they were held before the room from which they were ultimately rescued. The close bond they developed over the months — during which they played cards, wrote journals, and learned and taught each other Arabic, Hebrew and Russian — kept the three going, the Journal said.

The three men were rescued on Saturday from central Gaza’s Nuseirat refugee camp in a joint operation of Israeli security forces, along with Noa Argamani, who was being held in a separate home some 180 meters (200 yards) away from the other hostages. Hamas’s government media office said at least 274 people were killed amid the operation, a figure which has not been verified and does not distinguish between combatants and civilians. Israel says under 100 were killed, some of them civilians.

All four returning hostages seemed to be in high spirits. The three men had buzzed hair and clean beards; Aviram Meir, Almog’s uncle, said they had been allowed to groom themselves in captivity. None of the hostages appeared to be emaciated.

However, Meir said, his nephew’s skin was pale; the hostages hadn’t seen the sun for months.

Rescued hostage Almog Meir Jan raises his hands in celebration as he is escorted from an IDF helicopter on arrival at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, June 8, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The Journal cited Dr. Itai Pessach as saying that the rescued hostages’ cheerful demeanor was likely the result of adrenaline from the rescue operation. Pessach, who treated the hostages at Sheba Hospital near Tel Aviv upon their return, told CNN on Monday that they had been beaten “almost every day” in captivity.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Pessach said that the rescued hostages’ weight fluctuated in captivity as a result of stress, fear, and maltreatment, and that they had been malnourished to the point of muscle atrophy.

“We’ve heard stories that are beyond anything you can imagine,” Pessach said.

Meir told the Journal that the hostages’ spirits were lifted one day when they were allowed to see Al Jazeera’s Arabic channel and happened to catch a Tel Aviv hostage rally. His nephew, Meir said, saw his own face on a poster hoisted at the rally.

File – Demonstrators gather during a rally by the relatives of Israeli hostages held in Gaza since October 7, outside the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv on May 11, 2024 (Jack Guez / AFP)

“It made him feel he hadn’t been forgotten,” said the uncle. It was May 11 — Almog Meir’s birthday.

According to the Journal, relatives of the hostages were advised not to delve into their loved ones’ captivity, and security officials have asked hostages and their families not to disclose details about it. The newspaper noted that accounts of other hostages’ captivity emerged only a month or more after the hostages were freed.

Ziv, Meir Jan, Kozlov and Argaman were snatched from the Reim-area Nova music festival on October 7, when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists stormed southern Israel to kill nearly 1,200 people and take over 250 hostages.

Hours after she was rescued from Hamas captivity in Gaza, Noa Argamani arrives at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital to be reunited with her mother Liora who has terminal cancer, June 8, 2024 (Ichilov Hospital)

It is believed that 116 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — 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. The IDF has confirmed the deaths of 41 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.

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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