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