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Family of Freed 12-Year-Old Boy Describes Horrific Abuse of Child Hostages by Hamas, Gazan Civilians

Eitan Yahalomi, 12, walks with his mother at the Kerem Shalom border crossing, after being released from Gaza where he was kept hostage following the Oct. 7 attack by Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, in Israel. Photo: Spokesperson unit of Israel Defense Forces/Handout via REUTERS

The aunt of a 12-year-old boy who was released from captivity in Gaza on Monday night has revealed disturbing details of threats and psychological abuse inflicted on her nephew by Hamas terrorists, which included forcing him to watch videos of the atrocities committed on Oct. 7.

In an interview with French TV channel BFM, Eitan Yahalomi’s aunt, Devora Cohen, said, “Whenever a child hostage cried, the terrorists would threaten them with rifles to silence them.”

Yahalomi, a dual Israeli-French citizen, was released on Monday, 52 days after his abduction, as part of a temporary ceasefire and hostage-prisoner swap deal between Israel and Hamas.

“Perhaps I was naïve, but I wanted to hope that they were treating him well,” said Cohen. “I was wrong. They are monsters.”

For the first 16 days of captivity, Yahalomi was left in solitary confinement in a room underground, his grandmother, Esther Yahalomi, told the Haaretz daily.

After a month he was joined by other child hostages at a different location, which was much easier for him because his kindergarten teacher was also there. But the children were forced to watch the Oct. 7 massacre — in which Hamas-led terrorists murdered over 1,200 people across southern Israel and took more than 240 hostages — on film in silence, and any cries they made resulted in threats at gunpoint.

“The Hamas terrorists forced him to watch films of the horrors, the kind that no one wants to see, they forced him to watch them,” Cohen said.

Yahalomi’s arrival in Gaza was also met with hostility from Palestinian civilians, who subjected the 12-year-old to physical abuse, Cohen said.

“When he arrived in Gaza, all the residents, everyone, beat him. He is a 12-year-old boy,” she said. “We’re talking about a child of 12.”

Yahalomi was initially captured along with his mother and two sisters, but they successfully escaped and returned to Israel, while Eitan was transported into Gaza on a separate moped.

His father, Ohad, who sustained gunshot wounds during a shootout with Hamas terrorists, was also taken captive and remains in Gaza.

Separately, Thomas Hand, the father of 9-year-old Emily Hand who was released by Hamas on Sunday evening, opened up about his daughter’s condition over the last two days.

In an emotional interview with CNN, Hand said Emily was barely audible.

“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,” he said. “She’d been conditioned [by her captors] not to make any noise.”

When Hand asked Emily how long she thought she had been in captivity, she said she had been held hostage for an entire year.

“Apart from the whispering, that was a punch in the guts. A year,” Hand said.

Hand added that his daughter cried herself to sleep.

“Last night she cried until her face was red and blotchy; she couldn’t stop. She didn’t want any comfort. I guess she’s forgotten how to be comforted,” he said. “She went under the covers of the bed, the quilt, covered herself up and quietly cried.”

Hamas is making efforts to change its image in light of the widespread awareness of its barbarity. This includes directing released hostages to smile and wave, as observed in videos of the hostages being transferred to Red Cross vehicles, which include audible directives by the masked terrorists to “keep waving.”

Some in the international media seem to have fallen prey to Hamas’ theatrics. Responding to an Israeli report that Yahya Sinwar — the Hamas leader in Gaza and mastermind behind the Oct. 7 massacre — met with Israeli hostages and told them in Hebrew that “nothing would happen” to them, veteran Sky News journalist Dominic Waghorn posted on X/Twitter that it “undermines the Israeli Hamas = ISIS storyline.”

Hamas leader Yehya Sinwar met with the Israeli hostages a day after they were taken in tunnels under Gaza and told them they would not be harmed and would be returned as part of a hostage deal. Undermines the Israeli Hamas = ISIS storyline.

— Dominic Waghorn (@DominicWaghorn) November 28, 2023

Waghorn went on to claim that the hostages were “held in reasonable conditions, reportedly, though those held above ground lived with the fear of being killed in Israel’s bombardment.”

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Top IDF Brass Blindsided by UNRWA Fallout

View of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90.

i24 NewsSenior Israel Defense Forces (IDF) command was caught off guard by the speed with which the allegations implicating UNRWA staffers in the October 7 atrocities became public knowledge, according to a New York Times report published Saturday.

When, on January 18, UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini sat down with senior Israeli diplomat Amir Weissbrod in Tel Aviv for a routine meeting, the UN official was supplied with intelligence about the agency employees’ involvement in the massacre.

While the intelligence was provided by the IDF, the military establishment didn’t expect the explosive information to leak into the public domain. It emerged that Lazzarini relayed the allegations to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and began firing employees, eventually reporting the developments to U.S. officials.

Unnamed IDF officials cited in the NYT report were concerned that the allegations had been disseminated without Israel having devised a proper strategy for the fallout.

European countries, from the UK to Germany, as well as the United States, Canada and Australia all froze funding to UNRWA amid reviews in the aid agency and its employees.

While some have pushed for a complete shutdown of the agency, including U.S. lawmakers and Israeli ministers, others — including unnamed senior IDF officials — have said that it was inadvisable to do so during the war when UNRWA was providing needed humanitarian aid.

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Hamas Turns Down Hostage Deal, Demands Israel Release More Terrorists

Families of hostages and supporters protest to call for the release of hostages kidnapped on the deadly October 7 attack by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Tel Aviv, Israel, January 6, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

i24 NewsHamas on Sunday said it rejected the proposed hostage deal formulated in Paris, demanding that Israel release more Palestinian terrorists locked up in Israeli jails, according to a Saudi outlet.

There are 136 hostages held in Gaza by Hamas and other Palestinian jihadists, abducted during the October 7 incursion and massacre.

The statement comes hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reiterated Israel had “red lines” which could not be crossed.

Thus, the leader said, Israel will not end the war until all its goals are met, namely “the eradication of Hamas, the rescue of all our hostages, and ensuring that Gaza will never again pose a threat to Israel.”

“We will not agree to every deal, and not at any price,” he said, adding reports in the local media whereby Israel agreed to freeing large numbers of terrorists were not true.

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Dennis Ross Is Blaming Israel Again

Former Clinton adviser and US Mideast envoy Dennis Ross. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.orgFormer U.S. Middle East envoy Dennis Ross just can’t stop blaming Israel.

Speaking via Zoom for the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism & Policy on Jan. 31, Ross offered some expected, perfunctory criticism of Hamas, Iran and Hezbollah. But again and again, he managed to bring in one-sided and unfair criticism of Israel.

Referring to Israel’s counter-terrorism actions in Judea and Samaria, Ross said: “West Bank violence [by Arabs] is not disconnected from Israel’s policies in the West Bank.”

That’s just absurd. The terrorists are not responding to Israeli policies. They were murdering Jews long before there were any settlements or so-called occupied territories. They oppose Israel’s existence, not its borders. It’s these terrorists who are the aggressors, and Israelis must respond to them.

Regarding Gaza, Ross said: “The Israelis haven’t done everything they could to spare civilians in Gaza.” Is he kidding? The Israelis have refrained from striking terrorist targets where there are civilians. They have personally warned civilians to evacuate, again and again, through leaflets and phone calls and public announcements. They have risked the lives of their own soldiers by going house to house, instead of just bombing from the air. What else can they possibly do?

Ross also commented on the recent ruling by the International Court of Justice—the ruling that failed to condemn Hamas and demanded that Israel give more aid to Palestinians in Gaza. He said the ruling was “not irresponsible” and that it was provoked by “extreme statements by Israeli politicians.” That’s simply nonsense. The statement that the court cited most prominently was made by Israel’s left-leaning president, Isaac Herzog, who said that many ordinary Gazans supported the Hamas massacre, which was a perfectly reasonable statement of fact.

The practice of saying a few perfunctory crucial words about terrorists and then “balancing” it with criticism of Israel is typical of the grotesque “even-handedness” that Ross and his colleagues pushed during his many years at the U.S. State Department.

That approach was wrong then, and it’s wrong now. There can be no “balance” between good and evil. Israel and the Palestinian Authority are not on the same moral level. Israel is America’s loyal, reliable, democratic ally. The P.A. is a terror-sponsoring, hate-mongering dictatorship.

In recent months, Ross has been saying that Israel should allow the Hamas leadership to leave Gaza in exchange for the release of the remaining hostages. He points to Israel’s decision in 1982, under U.S. pressure, to allow PLO chief Yasser Arafat and thousands of PLO terrorists to leave besieged Beirut.

But Ross never mentions what happened after Arafat left. He didn’t retire. He set up PLO terrorist headquarters in Tunisia, and then 20 additional years of terrorism followed—suicide bombings, intifadas, mass shootings, stabbings. Ross’s new plan would have the same result.

This is the same Dennis Ross who has acknowledged—on the op-ed page of The Washington Post in 2014—that he pressured Israel to allow Hamas to import concrete. Ross wrote that the Israelis opposed his demand because they feared that Hamas would use the cement to build terror tunnels. Ross insisted the concrete would be used to build houses, and because of his pressure, the Israelis gave in. We all know the result.

In his Zoom talk this week, Ross had the chutzpah to mention that Hamas used imported cement to build tunnels instead of homes, though never mentioned that he was the one who helped them to get that cement into Gaza in the first place.

Ross is frequently quoted in The New York Times and invited to appear on television shows and webinars. He’s treated as if his past involvement in Mideast diplomacy makes him an expert on how to make peace today. Yet every one of those diplomatic efforts failed. He has never facilitated real peace because he continues to pretend that both sides are to blame for the absence of peace.

The Jewish world is full of talented speakers, thinkers and writers. Surely, our institutions should be able to find more thoughtful lecturers than those same tired, old critics of Israel with their familiar and disastrous proposals.

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