Freed Israeli hostage describes “hell” of being held in Gaza

(CNN) — An Israeli woman held hostage by Hamas in Gaza described the “hell” of being held captive after the murder of her husband and daughter, telling CNN that her captors would not allow her surviving young children to cry and tried to . Explain to them that “they were forgotten.”

Chen Almog Goldstein, who was abducted with her children during Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7, said they were held in tunnels and an apartment in Gaza until their release after 51 days.

“They humiliated us, sometimes they even made fun of us,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “They told us that they had forgotten us, that the only important thing for Israel was to fight.”

“We weren’t allowed to cry, they wanted us to be happy… If we cried, we had to be okay or hide,” she said. “It’s a kind of emotional abuse that they don’t let us cry.”

Almog Goldstein witnessed the killing of her husband Nadav and her eldest daughter Yam when Hamas gunmen attacked their home near the Gaza border on October 7.

“I took Yam’s big, human-sized teddy bear and put it on us to protect us from the shooting,” he told Amanpour. “Within seconds, five of them came running into the safe room screaming, (and) when I turned back, Nadav had been shot in the chest at very close range.”

Freed Israeli hostage describes “hell” of being held in Gaza

Almog Goldstein described the “emotional abuse” he suffered while in captivity. (Credit: CNN)

Moments later, his daughter was shot in the face and Almog Goldstein was forced into a family car with her three surviving children and driven across the border. He recalled two Hamas fighters in the vehicle who were taking selfies on the way back to Gaza.

Hamas attacks on October 7 killed approximately 1,200 Israelis and took more than 200 as hostages to Gaza. Israel believes 99 people are in custody in Gaza, along with the bodies of 31 dead hostages.

Almog Goldstein and her surviving children were freed in late November, as part of a swap of Palestinian prisoners with Israel during a four-day ceasefire in the war.

He said the family survived on very little food and water every day while in captivity. “They tried to provide us food. There was a little more in the beginning, but then it reduced,” he said.

He said he feared dying at the hands of his captors or in Israeli forces’ “unrelenting bombardment” of Gaza.

And he described intense surveillance of the family by their captors. “Agam would sit and watch, and he would say, ‘What are you looking at? What are you thinking?’ “There was no personal space.”

“You have to understand that they took away our identity. “It was extremely difficult for us.”

He told us about Gilad Shalit (soldier captured by Hamas for five years) and laughed, he said.

Almog Goldstein said she and her children talked to their captors about religion and tried to keep the relationship cordial. “Sometimes we saw them crying, worrying about their wives and writing letters to them.”

He urged the release of the remaining hostages and asked Amanpour: “(Are) we, as a society and a world, doing everything we can for them? I can testify that there is hell there.”

More than 30,000 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel began war against Hamas five months ago, but recent efforts to achieve a ceasefire allowing the release of remaining hostages have failed.

On Thursday, two US officials agreed that the prospects for Israel and Hamas agreeing to a temporary ceasefire before the start of Ramadan early next week are not promising. “Hope is fading,” said one US official.

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