'These people are living on borrowed time'

Nurse who treated elderly while in captivity says hostages in ‘impossible conditions’

Nili Margalit says she was in Gaza with a group of abductees as old as 86, some whom have serious medical issues like failing kidneys, with little oxygen or food

Nurse Nili Margalit was taken captive by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023 from Kibbutz Nir Oz and freed on November 30, 2023. (Courtesy)
Nurse Nili Margalit was taken captive by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023 from Kibbutz Nir Oz and freed on November 30, 2023. (Courtesy)

A nurse held in Hamas captivity for nearly two months warned Israel’s leaders that remaining hostages, many with serious health issues, are facing dire conditions and “living on borrowed time.”

In a letter to the war cabinet leaked to Hebrew-language media, Nili Margalit said captives are suffering from heart problems, renal failure, and Parkinson’s disease, without proper medical care or sanitation.

“We were in the tunnels, in tough to impossible conditions,” wrote Margalit, who was kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Oz along with her father and over 70 others.

In Gaza, she said, she was with a group of hostages most of whom were 75 or older. An experienced nurse at Soroka Hospital’s children’s ward in Beersheba, she wrote that she quickly became caregiver to other hostages around her.

“Underground, with little oxygen, sporadic electricity, sometimes we would go whole days in the dark,” she wrote. “With only the most basic food of rice or pita once or twice a day.”

Margalit described “horrible sanitary conditions,” which she said had led to digestive problems among the abductees.

“These people are living on borrowed time,” she wrote.

A woman holds a sign against the Red Cross during a demonstration calling for the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip by the Hamas terror group in the Hostages Square at the Museum of Art in Tel Aviv, Israel, December 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit))

Margalit was released from Gaza on November 30, 2023. A day later, on December 1, 2023, the IDF confirmed the death of her father, Eliyahu Margalit, along with Aryeh Zalmanowicz, considered the oldest of the 240 people kidnapped by Hamas on October 7, who was apparently treated by Margalit.

It was unclear if Margalit was held alongside her father.

Yocheved Lifshitz, one of two elderly hostages released in mid-November, reported that she had been with Margalit in Gaza, who was doing what she could to help treat the hostages.

Margalit’s account dovetails with other descriptions from freed hostages of harsh conditions in Gazan captivity, including little food or access to medical care, and ill-treatment by their captors.

Yocheved Lifshitz (center), who was freed in October from Hamas captivity, protests in Tel Aviv on November 28, 2023, alongside family members, for the release of the remaining hostages, including her husband, Oded. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Last month, freed captive Elma Avraham was medevacked to Soroka hospital from Gaza in critical condition after not receiving treatment for various chronic conditions, but has since begun to recover.

Pressure has recently ramped up for the International Committee of the Red Cross to be granted access to the hostages to assess and ensure their well-being, deliver medications and facilitate communication with families, per its mandate.

The ICRC has faced intense criticism in Israel and abroad for not doing more to push for access or to deliver critical medication.

While many of the oldest or most infirm women have been released, the Hamas terror group continues to hold the elderly men it snatched. Additionally, many of the younger people kidnapped suffered injuries on October 7 or in the subsequent weeks.

Nir Oz was among the worst-hit communities on October 7, when thousands of Hamas terrorists burst into southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people, most of them civilians. At least 35 people from Nir Oz were killed.

A destroyed home, Kibbutz Nir Oz, October 30, 2023. (Carrie Keller-Lynn / The Times of Israel)

In response, Israel vowed to eliminate Hamas from the Gaza Strip, which the terror group has ruled since 2007. The IDF launched an aerial campaign and subsequent ground operation which began in northern Gaza and has started expanding to the south in recent days.

The rising death toll and unfolding humanitarian crisis in Gaza have sparked outrage in much of the world. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says Israel’s military campaign, in response to the terror group’s murderous attacks, has killed more than 17,700 people so far, most of them women and children. Those figures cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both Hamas terrorists and civilians, and people killed as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires.

According to Israeli military estimates, some 5,000 Hamas members have been killed in the Gaza Strip, with around two civilians killed for every terrorist. In addition, more than 1,000 terrorists were killed in Israel during the October 7 onslaught.

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