After 55 days in captivity, eight Israelis end their nightmare and return home, but 140 others are still held hostage by Hamas and further releases remain in doubt. Six women and girls and one teenage boy were freed on Thursday night.
After Mia Schem and Amit Soussana were freed in the late afternoon, the Red Cross transferred 17-year old Aisha Zaidna and her brother 18-year old Belal who were abducted from Kibbutz Holit, 40-year old Nili Margalit, 29-year old Shani Goren, 30-year old Ilana Gritzewsky and 29-year old Sapir Cohen
Nili Margalit, a pediatric nurse will meet up with freed hostages whom she had helped and treated during their captivity. Shani Goren, an educator in the Kibbutz will be reunited with Eitan Yahalomi whome she had cared from in the past and was a great support to when they were together in the hands of Hamas. Sapir Cohen will meet her partner Sasha Tropanov's mother and grandmother, but he remains captive, as is Matan Zanguaker, Ilana's partner.
The team at the Soroka hospital has been waiting for the past 55 days for pediatric nurse Nili to return. For weeks her family was in the dark as to her fate after the October 7 massacre. Only after her neighbor from Nir Oz, Yocheved Lifschitz returned home, did they learn that she was held by Hamas. In captivity, Nili tended to the wounds of others taken captive.
"Nili is a valued nurse who is professional and compassionate, perceptive and measured," Soroka's children's hospital chief Ayelet Nahum said. "In addition to her work in the hospital, she also teaches in the medical school and has trained the next generation of nurses." Nili is now back in Israel.
Shani was among the 77 residents of Nir Oz who were abducted by the Hamas terrorists. She was an educator who tended to children at the Kibbutz. In a video of her abduction posted by Hamas, she is seen holding one of the little twin girls from the Konyo family who were freed with their mother last week.
After the Eitan Yahalomi, only 12 was released, he told his family that after he was held in seclusion for 16 days, he was moved to where other hostages were held and met up with Shani whom he knew well. He said she had helped him, shared her food with him and protected him.
Aisha and Bilal Zaidna
Aisha and Bilal Zaidna were abducted along with their older brother and their father from Kibbutz Holit on Oct. 7 where they had been visiting the father at his place of work.
The leadership of the Bedouin community appealed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a letter on Wednesday urging him to take any measure possible to bring about their release. In addition to the Zaidana's two other members of the community were also abducted. Now the two teens can return home to Rahat.
Sapir and her partner Sasha Tropanov's were visiting his families when the massacre of October 7 took place. They were abducted along with Sacha's mother and grandmother, Yelena vitali Trupanov, 50, and Irena Tati, 73 after his father Vitali was murdered. Both women were freed on Wednesday and Sapir can now be united with them.
Ilana immigrated from Mexico out of Zionism and was followed by her family. She had lived in Nir Oz with her partner Matan Zanguaker, and the two were taken hostage by Hamas on October 7.
The 21-year old Tattoo artist was taken hostage from the Nova music festival and held for 55 days by Hamas in Gaza. She was freed in the late afternoon hours, ran into her mother's arms when she arrived, and then embraced her older brother also waiting for her return.
She was considered missing for days. The family later learned that she in Gaza, but were not prepared to receive a sign of life, in a video posted by the terrorists as part of their psychological warfare, days after her abduction. She was seen receiving medical attention for her wounded hand pleaded to be released. "I just ask to return home, get me out of here as quickly as possible," she said in the video although was likely making the statement under duress.
Mother Keren and the rest of the family received the news of her release with great joy. "Mom opened the door screaming Mia was coming home," her brother Uri said.
Amit Soussana, an attorney living on her own, was taken from her rented home in Kfar Aza and her family did not know if she was dead or alive. They had communicated with her in the morning of October 7 and she told them she was going to hide in a closet inside her safe room.
It sounds like they are here outside. Damn, I hope this ends already. This is the scariest thing in the world. They are shooting again, and I am running out of battery." Only after 20 days, was the family told that she was being held hostage in Gaza and now are relieved to know she is safely back in Israel.