‘I don’t believe in peace now,’ released Gaza hostage tells BBC

‘I don’t believe in peace now,’ released Gaza hostage tells BBC

33 minutes agoBy Hafsa Khalil, BBC NewsEPAAda Sagi was released in November after 53 days in captivity in Gaza

An Israeli peace activist who was seized from her home on 7 October and held hostage for 53 days in Gaza has told the BBC how her ordeal destroyed her belief that peace is possible between Palestinians and Israelis.

In her first UK interview since being freed in November, Ada Sagi, 75, also told Emma Barnett on Radio 4’s Today programme how she was held in an apartment by paid guards, that Hamas kept her in a hospital before her release – and that she now believes the world hates Jews.

“I don’t believe in peace, I don’t sorry,” the Arabic and Hebrew teacher said. “I understand Hamas don’t want it.”

Ms Sagi lived for decades in the Nir Oz kibbutz near the Israel-Gaza border, trying to help reconciliation efforts by teaching Israelis Arabic to speak to their neighbours.

In the autumn of 2023, she was planning to come to London to visit her son Noam and celebrate her birthday.

But all that changed when Hamas attacked southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking 251 hostages into Gaza, Ms Sagi among them.

Ada, who turned 75 while held hostage by those she describes as “Hamas terrorists”, was finally freed 53 days later.

It has taken six months for the life-long peace activist to be ready to talk to the British media about her experience and her views of those who took her freedom, her home and her belief in peace.

She is aware of the 116 hostages still left behind, 41 of whom Israel says are presumed dead, and is urging the Israeli government to agree a new Gaza ceasefire and hostage release deal with Hamas.

“Israel have to do the deal… bring back home all these hostages who is alive and also dead,” she says.

Ms Sagi describes how when she was first taken into Gaza, she and some other hostages were hidden in a family home with children, but the following day taken to an apartment in the southern city of Khan Younis because it was “dangerous”.

The apartment owner, Ms Sagi said, told them his wife and children had been sent to stay with his in-laws. The man, she added, was a nurse.

She said students were being paid to watch over them. “I heard them say… 70 shekels [£14.82; $18.83] for a day,” she said.

“It’s a lot of money in Gaza because they have no work. And if you have work not with Hamas, it’s no more than 20 shekels for a day,” she said.

Ms Sagi was among 105 hostages released in November in return for a week-long ceasefire and some 240 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

She described the terrible uncertainty of the run up to her release on the fifth day of the deal along with nine other Israelis and two Thais.

“Every knocking on the door you think there is somebody coming to take you,” she said.

When the hostages heard there was a deal and that the older women would be released, she said one of the women eventually freed with her was “terrified” she might have been too young to be included.

“But our housekeeper said: ‘No. You came together, you go together,’” she explained.

ReutersAda Sagi and her son Noam had hoped to celebrate her 75th birthday in London before she was kidnapped

On day 49 – a Friday – Ms Sagi said they were told: “You are going home”, which she didn’t believe.

“At lunchtime, they gave us food… they take us by car to Khan Younis and we go [un]til the border of Rafah [on the border with Egypt].”

But something had gone wrong and they had to return to Khan Younis.

“We are told they are releasing women with children, [and you feel] all the happiness that you are going to be released, and [then] something goes wrong,” she said.

When they got into the city, Ms Sagi said, they were taken to a hospital – which she believes was southern Gaza’s main hospital, Nasser – and told: “You are staying here.”

Ms Sagi said: “People say that they are not involved. They’re involved… and getting money for each of us.”

Testimony from a number of other released hostages places 10 hostages in total at Nasser hospital, one of whom remains in captivity.

When asked by the BBC to comment on Ms Sagi’s allegations, the hospital’s director, Dr Atef al-Hoot, denied that any hostages were kept there and said it only provided humanitarian services.

The Israeli military has previously said its troops detained “about 200 terrorists who were in the hospital” during a raid on Nasser hospital in February, and that they found ammunition as well as unused medicines intended for Israeli hostages.

Hamas has denied Israeli claims that its fighters have been operating inside Nasser and other hospitals across Gaza.

Ms Sagi said she and the other residents of Nir Oz who survived the 7 October attacks were now living in apartments in the city of Kiryat Gat.

She is writing a book and working with children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). “It’s made me feel good that I can help other people,” she said.

She is also keen to continue talking about her ordeal, despite the strong emotions it brings up.

“I lost my home. I lost my freedom – the whole place that I [have] to go back. Our village – kibbutz – is destroyed,” she said.

“I cried good. I’m not ‘iron woman’, like everybody says. Sometimes you cry and it’s good. My mother would say: ‘To cry, it cleans the eye.’”

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