JERUSALEM (AP) — A 72-year-old Israeli woman held captive by Hamas militants for nearly 50 days told an Israeli TV channel Wednesday that she was held at length in a dark, humid tunnel where she met a Hamas leader and helped pass the time with an informal lecture series by her knowledgeable fellow hostages.
Adina Moshe was taken captive from Kibbutz Nir Oz, a hard-hit communal farming village, on Oct. 7. She was freed in late November as part of a deal that saw roughly 100 hostages, mostly women and children, released in exchange for a temporary cease-fire and the release of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.
Her account to Israeli Channel 12 TV comes as efforts are underway to bring about a new deal that could free the remaining 100 or so captives. It also sheds new light on the difficult conditions that hostages endured while in Hamas captivity, where Yehya Sinwar, Hamas’ top leader in Gaza, visited Moshe and a group of fellow hostages deep underground, she said.
“Hello. How are you? Everything OK?” Moshe said Sinwar told them in the Hebrew he had learned during a long incarceration in Israel. She said the hostages bowed their heads and did not respond. Another visit followed three weeks later, she said.
Moshe said militants raided the home she shared with her husband, David, who was shot in the leg. They snatched her out from the window of her house’s safe room and another militant went back in to shoot her husband dead, she said. Before being killed, he blew her a farewell kiss, she said.
She was then taken into Gaza on a motorcycle flanked by two armed militants. She said one of them painfully ripped an earring from her ear and that before he could swipe the other one she offered it up. He took all her jewelry and a passerby stole her glasses, she said.
Moshe and a group of other hostages were marched into Hamas‘ extensive tunnel network, walking for five hours down five underground flights through dark and airless shafts until they reached a subterranean room where they were told they’d be released in the coming days.
“We believed them. We believed that would be the first thing Israel would do,” she said.
It ended up taking nearly 50 until she was freed.
“I told all the guys, ‘We’ll be here for at least two months and not because of Hamas,’” she said, indicating she harbored anger toward Israel for not securing her release earlier.
Moshe spent her days with other hostages — men, women and children — as armed guards stood by. They ate small portions of canned goods and rice that dwindled with time, she said. The room was lit only by a small LED light.
To pass the time, she said three male hostages, including a Jewish history buff, a film connoisseur and an Arabic speaker, offered to give lectures to the other captives. When the lectures about the Holocaust became too hard to hear, they moved on to the persecution of Spanish Jews in the Middle Ages, another topic too difficult to process under the conditions. The three men are still in captivity.
Moshe, who speaks some Arabic, said she asked the gunmen to lower their rifles, saying they were scaring a child captive, and they agreed. She also asked to be able to walk through the tunnel, saying her heart condition required it, and they also agreed to that. It was on one of those walks that she discovered two male hostages held in cells because, they said, they had fought back against the militants.
From so deep underground, she did not hear Israel’s massive bombardment. But she said she could tell they were happening because it felt like the tunnels were moving.
Moshe was shaking and broke down in tears during the interview. She said she is haunted by images of tunnels released by the army where she believes her fellow hostages have been taken.
“I have a feeling that some of them aren’t alive, because I know that they are no longer in the place where I was,” she said. “They took them from there. I’ve seen the pictures.”