'They wanted to guard their trophy': Released Israeli hostage recounts horrors of Gaza captivity

Yarden Roman-Gat tells CBS' 60 Minutes about the moment she handed her daughter to her husband to save them before being taken away by Hamas terrorists and of constant fear while in captivity in a war zone

American channel CBS’ show 60 Minutes broadcast an interview Sunday night with Yarden Roman-Gat, an Israeli hostage who was released as part of the exchange deal with Hamas. She told veteran journalist Lesley Stahl that she was held in a home in Gaza for 54 days, guarded by male Hamas terrorists alone. “I was watched and seen at all times. I was not hidden, not for a moment. They could do anything to me,” she said.
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She described the moments when she was taken captive and explained that Hamas terrorists saw her as a "trophy." Roman-Gat, who attempted to escape with her husband and daughter, couldn't run further. Instead, she fell to the ground and tried to play dead, but the terrorists noticed her.
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Yarden Roman-Gat on '60 Minutes'
“They grabbed my arms and started dragging me on the ground toward back to the car,” she recounted, adding that her clothes were being swiped off her body. “[It was] one of the most frightening moments because my thoughts were, ‘Even if they didn't have that intention, now they might have, and I'm half naked,’” she said.
In the same way as other hostages who arrived in Gaza, Roman-Gat said she was also paraded and presented in the streets to cheering Palestinians. “My kidnappers could not help themselves, showing me off as a trophy,” she explained
Roman-Gat also told 60 Minutes host Lesley Stahl about the decision that would save her 3-year-old daughter, Geffen, when the fleeing mother gave the young girl to her husband, Alon – allowing the two to escape and hide. “It must’ve been difficult to hand over your daughter,” Stahl said.
"It wasn't, because leaving her with me, thinking that both of us were either going to die or be abducted to Gaza, was worse," Roman-Gat replied.
"You're saying you didn't have a choice," Stahl continued. Roman-Gat agreed: "I had no choice, so I had no dilemma. If Geffen had stayed with me, both of us would have been dead or taken to Gaza."
She later described how her captives “did not want to protect me. They wanted to guard their trophy. But I do think I managed to make them care, I don't know, in some levels [sic]. And I do think it helped me survive.”
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Yarden Roman-Gat
“You cannot object to anything. It could cost you your life,” she added, saying her captors gave her a hijab to cover her body with. I got a very strong feeling that fabric is my only protection. That I don't know its effectiveness, but it was the only thing I got.”
“As a woman, the fear of getting raped or the variety of the acts, could never get off your mind, never; it’s just not an option because as long as you’re there, you’re hopeless, you have no protection, you cannot object to anything, it could cost you your life,” she told Stahl. “And that fear was not as extreme the whole time, but it will never go away. It’s always there.”
She also said that she managed to listen to the radio at times. Three weeks after her abduction, she heard one of Alon's uncles speaking. He talked about Yarden and Carmel, her's sister-in-law, but did not say a word about Geffen or Alon.
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Yarden Roman-Gat and her daughter
(Photo: Courtesy)
This is how Roman-Gat understood that her husband and daughter were okay after managing to escape the terrorists. Roman-Gat also shared the difficult experience of living in an active war zone. "It's very scary to be in a war zone. You can't ignore that," she said.
Roman-Gat was released in the sixth group of the hostage-prisoner release deal with Hamas, saying the terrorists asked her why she wasn’t happy when she was told she was being released. “The terrorists were wondering ‘why aren’t I happy?’. They almost demanded it. ‘Be happy already, you’re going home.’”
According to the testimony of Roman-Gat's sister, Roni, shortly before the terrorists reached the border fence with the three hostages, they were approached by an IDF tank.
"The armed terrorists jumped out of the vehicle and started to flee. Alon and Roman-Gat, who was holding Geffen, seized the opportunity to jump out of the vehicle too, and started running toward the fields. They ran toward a nearby IDF outpost, but when they got closer, they realized it was abandoned, so they decided not to approach it."
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ירדן רומן חוזרת למשפחתה
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Yarden Roman-Gat reunited with her family after her release
(Photo: via Facebook)
“At this stage, the terrorists had already spotted them and began to chase and shoot at them. Yarden handed Geffen over to Alon, and they both ran while being fired at, trying to find shelter. Yarden hid, while Alon kept running with Geffen in his arms – then they split up.
“For nearly 24 hours, Alon and Geffen hid in the bushes, hearing the terrorists moving around them, waiting for the right moment to escape. The next morning, they joined the soldiers.”
Roman-Gat’s husband and daughter waited for her return for nearly two months. When her family was told that she would be returning, Alon said he woke up their daughter and told her: “We found Mommy. We found Mommy and she's coming back.”
Alon’s sister, Carmel, is still being held in Gaza, and his mother was murdered by terrorists on October 7. “My sister-in-law Carmel and a bunch of other hostages are still in Gaza. And it's wrong. And we have to stop it,” Roman-Gat said in her interview.
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