Doctor treating 4 rescued Israeli hostages says they experienced ‘a lot of violence, almost every day’

Four recently rescued Israeli hostages embrace their loved ones, Ramat Gan, June 8, 2024. Photo: Israeli Army/Handout via Reuters

A doctor treating four Israeli hostages rescued from Gaza over the weekend said they were abused “almost every day” while in captivity.

Dr. Itai Pessach, who works at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv and is overseeing the treatment of the four rescued hostages, told CNN that their time in captivity “left a significant mark on their health,” even though they appeared normal on the outside.

“There were times when they barely got any food,” he said. “They didn’t have protein, so their muscles are very depleted, which causes damage to other systems.”

According to preliminary estimates from the Israeli Ministry of Health, the average hostage released under the November temporary ceasefire and hostage agreement lost between 17 and 33 pounds in just seven weeks.

“It was a hard, raw experience, with a lot of violence, almost every day,” Pessach added. “Every hour, whether physical, mental or otherwise, it’s something you can’t fathom.”

This, combined with “medical neglect, space limitations, not seeing the sun and all these other things, has (a) significant impact on health,” he said.

Further explaining the mental health aspect of being a hostage for so long, Pessach explained: “As time goes on, the hope of being free kind of diminishes and you start to wonder if it will ever end… I think losing that faith is where that will take you to the tipping point.”

Noa Argamani, Shlomi Ziv, Almog Meir Jan and Andrey Kozlov were rescued from Hamas captivity on Saturday as part of a complex and dangerous mission undertaken by the elite National Anti-Terrorism Unit “Yamam” of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Specializes in hostage rescue missions and raids on enemy combatants in civilian areas.

During the raid, Chief Inspector Arnon Zamora was killed by Hamas terrorists and other Palestinians in the area after they opened fire on the IDF while trying to rescue the hostages. In honor of his sacrifice, the mission was renamed “Operation Arnon”. The IDF called Zamora “a hero of Israel, a lover of the land and a defender.”

The previously released hostages later described in detail the abuse they experienced while in the hands of Hamas.

In April, former hostages held by Hamas in Gaza told harrowing stories of sexual harassment and abuse during an emotional hearing in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

“Even though it’s hard to say, every girl there has experienced sexual harassment in one way or another,” said Mia Regev, who was freed in November after 50 days in captivity. Fighting back tears, she urged lawmakers to take action, saying: “It’s your job to bring them back home.”

A few days earlier, Amit Soussana, 40, from Kfar Aza, kidnapped on October 7 and released under a temporary ceasefire agreement, he said THe New York Times that she suffered sexual violence as a hostage.

She said one of her kidnappers forced her to perform a “sex act” at gunpoint.

“He sat me down on the edge of the bathtub. And I tightened my legs. And I resisted. And he kept beating me and putting a gun to my face,” Soussana recalled. “Then he dragged me to the bedroom.

A family member of the 12-year-old freed hostage Eitan Yahalom specific the abuse he faced during his 52 days of detention in Hamas.

“Every time the child hostage cried, the terrorists threatened him with guns to silence him,” said a family member. Perhaps I was naive, but I wanted to hope they treated him well. I was wrong. They’re monsters.

Palestinian terrorists led by Hamas abducted more than 250 people in a massacre that took place on October 7 in southern Israel. There are currently over 100 hostages being held in Gaza.