In the three days since Israel and Hamas declared a truce, 58 hostages have been released and details are beginning to emerge about their nearly two months of captivity inside Gaza.
While information about the conditions has been tightly controlled, family members of the victims have begun sharing details about their loved ones’ experiences. Most of the freed hostages, though understandably shaken, appear to be in stable condition.
One woman said her cousin and aunt, Keren and Ruth Munder, were fed irregularly having eaten mainly rice and bread, and lost around 15 pounds in just 50 days. Her family members said they had slept on rows of chairs pushed together in a room that looked like a reception area and had to wait hours before going to the bathroom.
Adva Adar, the grandchild of 85-year-old released hostage Yaffa Adar, said her grandmother had also lost weight. She said her grandmother was taken captive convinced that her family members were dead, only to emerge to the news that they had survived.
Eighteen foreign nationals, mostly Thais, have also been released.
The experience of another captive, 85-year-old Yocheved Lipschitz who was released before the current cease-fire, illuminated a more nuanced picture.
Lifshitz said captives were treated well and received medical care, including medication. The guards kept conditions clean, she said. Hostages were given one meal a day of cheese, cucumber and pita, she said, adding that her captors ate the same.
The recently freed hostages also appeared to have been held underground. Eyal Nouri, the nephew of Adina Moshe, 72, who was freed on Friday, said his aunt ‘had to adjust to the sunlight’ because she had been in darkness for weeks.
Doctors have warned of the steep psychological toll of captivity. Israel has made counseling and other support available to those who have been released.
Many of the freed hostages appeared to be in good physical condition, able to walk and speak normally, but at least two needed more serious medical care. One hostage released Sunday, 84-year-old Alma Abraham, was rushed to Israel’s Soroka Medical Center in the southern city of Beersheba in life-threatening condition.
The hospital’s director said she had a pre-existing condition that had not been treated properly in captivity. Another young female hostage was on crutches in a video Hamas released Saturday.
The truce comes less than two months after Hamas’ bloody cross-border attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people and left hundreds of others injured.
In the 50 days since the hostages were taken captive, Israel has devastated the Gaza Strip with a ground and air offensive that has killed at least 13,300 Palestinians, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory. Israel has disputed those figures.
Under the current four-day cease-fire, Hamas has agreed to release a total of 50 Israeli hostages in exchange for Israel releasing 150 Palestinian security prisoners and ramping up aid to the pummeled enclave.
Eleven more hostages are set to be released Monday on the last day of the cease-fire, leaving close to 180 hostages in the Gaza Strip. Israeli authorities have said that they are willing to extend the truce one day for every 10 hostages released by Hamas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.