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Relatives describe the trauma of child hostages freed by Hamas.

Relatives describe the trauma of child hostages freed by Hamas.


Eitan Yahalomi, 12, was beaten and forced to watch videos from the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, his aunt, Deborah Cohen, says.

And Emily Hand, who turned 9 in captivity, now only speaks in whispers, her father says. She was convinced her time in Gaza had lasted a year.

Much of their experiences, including their conditions, where they were held, and how they were split apart, remains unknown. But hints about the ordeals of children who were held hostage in Gaza by Hamas for more than 50 days are emerging from interviews with their relatives.

Eitan’s aunt spoke about his experience to a French broadcasting network. Emily’s father was interviewed on CNN. Both struggled to remain composed as they spoke.

Like many hostages, the children are returning to Israel not knowing whether their family members are alive, dead or held captive. Some children, including Eitan, have been freed while their fathers have been kept hostage.

Eitan, who was described by relatives as a boy who loves nature, animals and soccer, told Ms. Cohen that in captivity, every time children cried, they were threatened with a gun “to silence them.”

“Hamas made him watch the horrific footage, the one no one wants to watch,” she said on BMTV. “They made him watch it.”

The reporter clarified, “We’re talking about the horrific footage of Oct. 7, right?”

“Yes, yes,” Ms. Cohen responded. “The entire thing.”

“How can you feel good after you’ve experienced something like that?” Ms. Cohen said. “I’m going to see him and give him a big hug. He has a long way to go.”

Emily’s father, Thomas Hand, said that one night after she returned home, she cried until her face was “red and blotchy.”

“The most shocking, disturbing part of meeting her was she was just whispering, you couldn’t hear her. I had to put my ear on her lips,” Mr. Hand said. “She’d been conditioned not to make any noise.”





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