update deskIsrael at War

Hamas tranquilized hostages before release to ‘look happy’

The abductees suffered more than 50 days of abuse.

A Hamas terrorist releases Israeli hostages to the Red Cross in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, Nov. 28, 2023. Credit: Flash90.
A Hamas terrorist releases Israeli hostages to the Red Cross in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, Nov. 28, 2023. Credit: Flash90.

Hamas drugged the hostages who were released during the ceasefire so that they would “look happy” during the transfer to the Red Cross in Gaza, according to Israel’s Health Ministry.

The captives were tranquilized as part of the terrorist group’s propaganda to make it seem like they were treated well after suffering more than 50 days of physical and psychological abuse, ministry officials told lawmakers at a hearing of the Knesset Health Committee on Tuesday.

Dr. Hagar Mizrahi, head of the Health Ministry’s medical division, said the hostages were administered Clonazepam, a mood-enhancing drug used to treat seizures and panic disorders. It is known as Clonex in Israel and sold under the brand names Klonopin and Rivotril elsewhere.

Normally administered orally, the drug has a calming effect on the nervous system. Side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, impaired coordination and fatigue.

Long-term use or misuse of the medication can lead to dependency, tolerance and withdrawal symptoms.

Mizrahi did not indicate whether this was based on blood tests, testimonies of the hostages or both.

The abductees were also given a larger meal before returning to Israel. Hospitals reported severe weight loss in many of the freed hostages, indicating starvation-like conditions.

Hamas documented the releases for propaganda purposes, which showed some of the hostages appearing friendly or in a positive mood.

Shir Siegel, whose mother, Aviva, was freed but whose father, Keith, remains captive, also spoke to the committee.

“My mother came back with testimonies that I can’t hear. I can’t hear her talking about the fact that they were handcuffed, that they were abused. There were rumors that the conditions are fine—they are not given food and water. For us to speak, there is a Holocaust three hours’ drive from here,” Siegel said.

Heath Committee Chairman Yonatan Mishraki (Shas) ordered the Health Ministry to publish a detailed report about the drugging and other medical conditions of the released hostages and to send them to other health organizations around the world.

Also on Tuesday, during a meeting at an air force base in Herzliya, several persons released by Hamas under the ceasefire-for-hostages deal addressed the Israeli War Cabinet about the horrors they underwent during their captivity.

The released hostages who attended the meeting included Raz Ben-Ami, whose husband, Ohad, is still held in Gaza; Sharon Kunio-Aloni, whose husband, David is also still in the Strip; and Lena Trupanob, whose 28-year-old son Sasha is still a captive.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the families, “There is no possibility right now to bring everyone home. Can anyone really imagine that if that was an option, anyone would refuse it?”

Some of the attendees clashed with Netanyahu. Channel 12 News reported that the daughter of hostage Chaim Peri, 79, told the premier that returning the captives should take priority over the war against Hamas.

Eighty-one Israelis were freed in exchange for terrorists held in Israeli prisons during the truce. Hamas also released 23 Thais and one Filipino.

Hamas currently holds 137 men, women and children in Gaza.

At least 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on Oct. 7. Some people remain unaccounted for as Israeli authorities continue to identify bodies and search for human remains.

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