Teen recalls Gazans coming to hit her as she was kidnapped

‘I was scared to death’: Freed teen hostage recounts being dragged to Gaza on scooter

Sahar Calderon, 16, tells New York Times she was separated from her father, still held hostage, and brother during 52 days in Hamas captivity; feared she’d be killed by IDF strikes

Sahar Calderon (Courtesy)
Sahar Calderon (Courtesy)

Sahar Calderon, 16, who was kidnapped by Gazan terrorists on October 7 and released with her 12-year-old brother Erez on November 27 as part of a temporary truce deal between Hamas and Israel, described in a New York Times interview the sheer terror of her ordeal.

After running for her life from gunmen who stormed her home on Kibbutz Nir Oz, she described being hoisted onto a motorcycle and driven, screaming, toward Gaza.

“The motorcycle drove through the fields, and there, too, were thousands of terrorists, people, Gazan citizens,” Calderon told The New York Times in an interview published Thursday. “Tractors and pickup trucks, things from our homes. I saw many small children and mothers from Gaza. Clashes. People coming toward me to hit me.”

“I had never felt that kind of fear,” the teenager said. “I was scared to death.”

Calderon was kidnapped along with her father Ofer Calderon, 53, and her brother Erez when Hamas terrorists infiltrated Nir Oz, killing over 100 residents and some 15 foreign agricultural workers, and taking about 80 hostages.

Her mother Hadas, who is separated from Ofer, barricaded herself in her home on that day. Sahar’s brother Rotem, 19, also survived in the safe room of his apartment, in the kibbutz area for young adults, while her sister Gaya, 21, was in Tel Aviv.

@nytimes

In the 52 days that Sahar Kalderon, 16, spent as a hostage in Gaza, it was not only her captors who terrified her. It was also the relentless Israeli airstrikes, she said, pummeling the territory night after night in one of the most intense air campaigns this century. That sentiment highlights Israel’s strategic bind as it tries to free more of the people captured by Hamas and its allies during the Oct. 7 attacks that set off the conflict. Israel began its devastating counterattack on Gaza soon after the assault, seeking to rescue the roughly 240 hostages while destroying the group that led their abduction. The two-pronged strategy initially worked: The Israeli Army captured large parts of northern Gaza before agreeing to a brief truce in November to allow for the release of more than 100 hostages. Ms. Kalderon and her brother Erez, 12, were among them. The fear is that as Israeli troops push deeper into Gaza, the fight against Hamas could endanger the 129 hostages still being held there, 21 of whom are believed to already be dead. Last week, three Israeli hostages were mistakenly shot and killed by the army despite bearing a makeshift white flag. Ms. Kalderon believes her father, Ofer Kalderon, 53, remains a hostage. Video by Sarah Kerr, Carmit Hoomash, Patrick Kingsley, Caroline Kim and David Blumenfeld

♬ original sound – The New York Times

Calderon told The New York Times that during her time in Hamas captivity she feared she would be killed by the IDF strikes pummeling Gaza, as Israel fights to eliminate the terror group.

“I heard all the Israeli strikes, very intense bombings… Many times I told myself that, in the end, I will die from Israel’s missiles and not from Hamas,” she said. “What about my father, who has been left behind? I ask of everyone who sees this: Please, stop this war; get all the hostages out.”

Without giving specific details of her time in Hamas captivity, for fear of endangering those still held by terror groups, Calderon told the Times that she was held separately from her family for the majority of her 52 days in captivity, and had no idea that some 240 people had been kidnapped on October 7.

Ofer Calderon taken captive by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023 from Kibbutz Nir Oz (Courtesy)

In fact, she was told she was being released only an hour beforehand, and reunited with her brother Erez minutes before they were transferred to the Red Cross and ultimately back to Israel.

“I started crying,” she said. “And I said to myself, ‘At least I have him.’”

Recovering at home after their inconceivable ordeal, the teenagers’ mother Hadas Calderon said her children were suffering from insomnia and panic attacks, and missing their father.

Hadas Calderon holds pictures of her children, two of whom were held captive by Hamas, at Kibbutz Nir Oz, October 30, 2023. (Carrie Keller-Lynn/The Times of Israel)

“They lost their childhood,” she was quoted as saying. “They are afraid that behind each door in the house are terrorists.”

It is believed that 129 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.

Most Popular
read more: