A South African-Israeli woman freed from Hamas captivity in Gaza after 51 days delivered searing testimony about her experiences there to a Knesset panel on Tuesday.
Aviva Siegel, 64, and her husband, Keith, 62, a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, were abducted from Kibbutz Kfar Aza during the Oct. 7 invasion. She was released on Nov. 26 as part of a temporary ceasefire deal. Her husband is still being held hostage in Gaza.
She came to the Knesset to lobby for those still captive, describing how one day a young hostage returned from the bathroom upset and Siegel was prevented from hugging her by the terrorist. At this point, Siegel realized that the girl’s mood was unusual—shut down, quiet.
“And forgive me, I will say bad words, but this son of a bitch touched her. And he wouldn’t even let me hug her after it happened. It’s terrible, it’s just terrible. I told her I was sorry,” Siegel told the lawmakers.
She spoke about another incident when the captors tortured another young abductee because they mistook her for an IDF officer.
“They tortured her next to me. And I am a witness to it. I am a witness to what is happening there. What is happening there is simply a catastrophe. It is impossible to continue.
“I say I’ve been talking here for a minute, two minutes and I say so much. How many words can people speak in 95 days and nothing happens? You must give us hope, we are losing it. I want to stand here on the table, if I had the courage, and scream for them. For all the abductees out there, but I won’t do it because I’m a cultured person. They [the terrorists] are not civilized, they are not humane.”
It was the first meeting of the Knesset Caucus for the Hostages, which was set up by MK Boaz Bismuth (Likud) and MK Shelly Tal Meron (Yesh Atid).
Two U.N. human rights experts on Monday called for full accountability for the multitude of alleged crimes, including sexual torture, committed against civilians by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7, saying they amount to war crimes.
Alice Jill Edwards, special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and Morris Tidball-Binz, special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said the violations include killing, hostage-taking, torture and sexual torture.
“As armed Palestinian groups rampaged through communities in Israel bordering the Gaza strip, thousands of people were subjected to targeted and brutal attacks, the vast majority of whom were civilians,” the experts said in a statement.
“The growing body of evidence about reported sexual violence is particularly harrowing,” they said. The violence included gang rapes, mutilations and gunshots to genital areas.
“Female bodies were found with their clothing pulled up to their waists, with underpants removed or torn or stained with blood,” they continued.
“These acts constitute gross violations of international law, amounting to war crimes which, given the number of victims and the extensive premeditation and planning of the attacks, may also qualify as crimes against humanity,” the U.N. experts said.