Starved Israeli hostages were drugged, fed before release to improve appearance for cameras: ‘Part of the psychological terror’

Starved Israeli hostages were drugged, fed before release to improve appearance for cameras: ‘Part of the psychological terror’


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Published Dec. 5, 2023, 12:10 p.m. ET

Health Ministry officials Dr. Hagar Mizrahi (left) and Professor Ronit Endevelt attend a Knesset Health Committee discussion at the Knesset in Jerusalem on Tuesday. Knesset Channel

Starved Israeli hostages were fed tranquilizers and extra food right before they were freed by Hamas to make them appear calm and happy for the cameras, Israel said Tuesday.

An Israeli Health Ministry leader told a Knesset Health Committee that the 110 civilian hostages returned in a swap for Palestinian terror suspects last week were given the Israeli brand of Klonopin “to improve their mood,” according to the Times of Israel.

The benzodiazepine-class sedative and muscle relaxant can produce a euphoric feeling, which could explain why at least one hostage went viral for her supposed “look of love” toward a Hamas fighter.

“This is part of the psychological terror Hamas put [the hostages] through,” lawmaker Moshe Saada said, as health officials also noted they had found evidence of “war crimes” on the bodies of some of the freed prisoners, who were captured in a deadly Oct. 7 raid that killed more than 1,200 Israelis.

“A pill like this, for someone who is not used to its influence, works quickly to give you a feeling that you’re high when their mental state was actually very low,” Saada said.

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Shir Siegal, the daughter of freed US citizen Aviva Siegal, described how the captives’ apparent blissful drugged-induced state differed from the reality of their imprisonment, during which Hamas fighters allegedly “handcuffed them, they tortured them, they didn’t give them medicine.

“There are stories that they were treated OK, they were given food. [Hamas] didn’t give them food, they didn’t give them water,” said Siegal, whose father, Keith Siegal, is among those still being held.

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Hostages abducted by Hamas were given sedatives before their release, Israeli doctors say. via REUTERS

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They were also reportedly given extra food after many lost up to 20% of their body weight due to sporadic and unnutritious meals. via REUTERS

“As we’re speaking, a holocaust is taking place three hours from here,” she said. “[Aviva] told me last night, ‘How can I function when I know exactly what is happening there [in Gaza] and my husband is still there?’ So tell me, what am I supposed to say to my mother?”

Hostages were fed only sporadically, with one claiming their meals consisted only of rice and pita bread, during their captivity.

The Health Ministry told lawmakers that some of the freed hostages had lost up to 20% of their body weight and were in a state of malnourishment, according to the newspaper.

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Children stand alongside fighters from the Al-Qassam Brigades in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on November 29, 2023, as they wait for the Palestinian Hamas group to hand over hostages to the Red Cross. AFP via Getty Images

Many had severe Vitamin D deficiencies because of the lack of sunlight exposure during seven weeks indoors and also suffered digestive issues.

But Nutrition Department director Ronit Endevelt said the hostages were given extra food right before their release so they would look healthier.

Every freed hostage has been assigned a nurse and social worker to coordinate their physical and mental recovery, the article said.

There are 119 men and 17 women and children still in captivity, according to Israel.

The temporary cease-fire brokered between Hamas and Israel ended Friday, and Israel resumed its air bombardment in retaliation for the Oct. 7 terror attack.

Hamas said Monday that about 15,800 people have been killed and 42,000 injured in more than 10,000 strikes.

The invasion has expanded to southern Gaza, which Israel previously told millions of refugees was a safe haven.