ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 147

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Each day 'like eternity,' say freed siblings Maya and Itay

‘Intense fear, zero sleep’: Freed hostages recall captivity, in videos shown at rally

Several thousand at Tel Aviv’s Hostages Square urge return of those still in Gaza; former captive says terrorist took oxygen machine; others describe lack of food, poor conditions

Protesters gather with signs showing portraits of Israeli hostages held in Gaza since Hamas's October 7 massacre during a demonstration calling for their release at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, on December 9, 2023. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
Protesters gather with signs showing portraits of Israeli hostages held in Gaza since Hamas's October 7 massacre during a demonstration calling for their release at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, on December 9, 2023. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

A few thousand Israelis gathered Saturday in what has come to be known as Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, calling for the release of the 138 people believed to be held in Gaza since being kidnapped during the Hamas-led October 7 massacres in southern Israel.

As speakers took to the stage, those in the crowd held placards bearing messages such as “they trust us to get them out of hell,” and “bring them home now,” while harrowing clips were shown with released hostages revealing horrific details from their time in the Gaza Strip after being kidnapped by Hamas.

Some 240 people were taken captive by Palestinian terrorists in the October 7 assault on southern Israel, when they stormed across the border, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians in their homes and at a music festival.

In her video testimony, Margalit Mozes, 77, who was kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Oz, said a terrorist took her oxygen concentrator machine, which she needs to sleep normally, despite her explaining to him in Arabic that “this is my oxygen.”

“He understood the meaning of this, but he didn’t care,” she said in a video released by Bring Them Home Now, a volunteer organization supporting the families of the hostages and the missing

“I didn’t sleep for 49 days,” she added.”There were difficulties. Mental difficulties, physical difficulties. And with every day that passes, it becomes more and more difficult.”

Freed hostage Adina Moshe, 72, said in her video that she good friends of hers from Kibbutz Nir Oz remain in Gaza, all of them elderly, sick and without adequate medications.

“When I was there, the food situation there deteriorated. We eventually reached the point of only eating rice,” she said, pleading for Israel to do everything to secure the remaining hostages’ release. Until that happens, she said, “I won’t be able to recover.”

A video from siblings Maya (21) and Itay (18) Regev showed them saying that every day in captivity “is like hell — intense fear, zero sleep, the lack of knowledge is simply scary.”

They said each day there is “like eternity” and that they missed their family, were hungry and suffered difficult conditions.

In the final video, Ofelia Roitman, 77, said her situation in captivity reminded her of stories about concentration camps during the Holocaust.

“I was very afraid,” she said. “In the first few weeks, I thought I had gone crazy because I was alone, I was almost without light, I was almost without food.

“It reminded me of the subject of the Holocaust — I was [collecting] pieces of pita bread so that tomorrow I would have food,” she added, calling on the government to take action to free the rest of the hostages.

It is believed that 138 hostages remain in Gaza, although in recent days the IDF has confirmed the deaths of 18 of the hostages held by Hamas, due to new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.

A further 105 civilian hostages were released from Hamas captivity in Gaza during a weeklong truce: 81 Israelis, 23 Thai nationals and one Filipino. In exchange, Israel released 240 Palestinian security prisoners, all women and minors. Earlier, four hostages were released, one hostage was rescued, and two bodies were recovered.

Also at the rally, relatives of freed hostages and those still in Gaza spoke to the crowd.

Bezalel Schneider, the uncle of captive Shiri Bibas, lit the Hanukkah Menorah at the rally and demanded his relatives’ return.

“After the darkness comes the light. At the end, we will see light as we now see the light of Hanukkah, and we will see all the captives back with us,” he said.

Shiri, her husband Yarden, and young children Ariel Bibas, 4, and Kfir Bibas, 10 months old, have become one of the most recognizable groups of hostages and held up by many as proof of the extent of Hamas’s cruelty.

Adina Moshe’s granddaughter, Anat Moshe, also spoke on stage, stating that although her grandmother had returned, “her soul was still held captive together with her dear friends that were left behind.”

“Every day that passes is critical and essential for those people who are held in difficult conditions without adequate medical care. Time is running out,” she said.

Israelis attend a rally calling for the release of captives held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza at Hostage Square in Tel Aviv, December 9, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90

The father of Liri Albag expressed his distress over having no idea how his daughter was doing in captivity.

“Only when she returns with everyone will we know what they experienced. As a father, how can I go to sleep when she is in a tunnel, in complete darkness? She is in the most damned place possible,” said Eli Albag.

The father of Omer Wenkert, who was kidnapped at the Supernova music festival near Kibbutz Re’im, and suffers from colitis, lamented that his country “did not protect him.”

“Omer is sick and trucks are going into Gaza. Omer needs medication for his colitis, and humanitarian trucks are entering Gaza. Omer needs doctors and Israel is opening the Kerem Shalom crossing. Whoever opens the crossing today, will deliver concrete tomorrow for the reconstruction of Hamas,” he said, adding that if his son doesn’t return it would be in the conscious of policymakers.

Ruby Chen, the father of 19-year-old hostage Itay Chen, said from the podium: “We are asking the Israeli cabinet, the war cabinet, to explain what exactly is on the negotiating table.

“We demand to be part of the negotiation process,” added Chen, whose son is a solider and was taken while on duty.

“Get them out now, immediately, whatever the price might be.”

A photo released by activists shows a rally for the return of all hostages from Gaza at ‘Hostages Square’ in Tel Aviv, December 9, 2023. The banner reads: ‘No victory until the last hostage [is returned].’ (Aviv Atlas)
Demonstrator Yoav Zalmanovich said the government “did not care” about the hostages, and only “want revenge,” he told AFP.

Zalmanovich’s 85-year-old father, Aryeh, was taken alive to Gaza and “murdered” there weeks later, Yoav said.

In the crowd on Saturday, Eli Eliezer, who said he had a relative among those still being held, told AFP the government should have prioritized returning the hostages over pressing its war against Hamas.

“They should have made a deal earlier,” the 61-year-old engineer said. “It’s the government’s job to keep its people and its land safe.”

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