Mass arrests have also spiked since the beginning of the Israeli genocide in Gaza, arresting at least 3,260 Palestinians in the West Bank.
Hamas’ military chief Yahya Sinwar met captives held in Gaza and assured them in “flawless Hebrew” that they were “safest” in their place of captivity, the Associated Press (AP) reported on Monday, citing a recently-released captive.
“You are safest here. Nothing will happen to you,” he said, as quoted by AP.
“I appeal to the residents of Gaza: The sooner you find him yourselves, the sooner we’ll end the war,” Gallant said in a briefing at the time.
Sinwar had learned Hebrew in Israeli prisons in 1989, where he was given four life sentences before his release in 2011 in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Times of Israel reported.
The prominent Palestinian figure is also at the top of Israel’s hit list after the October 7 Palestinian operation, known as “Al Aqsa Flood.”
At the time, the Al Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ armed wing, had captured at least 240 Israelis and foreigners after infiltrating Israel’s borders along Gaza.
The reports over Sinwar’s meeting came out amid a Qatar-mediated four-day truce that came into force on Friday, November 24. The deal resulted in the release of 69 captives from Hamas in Gaza in exchange for the release of 150 women and children from Israeli prisons.
Israel and Hamas agreed to extend the truce on Monday night for two additional days under the same conditions to enable the Palestinian group to locate more captives.
The occupying state has barred those released from Gaza from speaking to the media following positive remarks by those who were released last month over Hamas treating them “very nicely” and “taking care of all their needs.”
On Monday, the Al Qassam Brigades published a heartfelt “thank you” letter on their Telegram channel that was written by former captive Danielle Aloni, who was released on November 24.
Handwritten in Hebrew, the letter lauded Hamas for their “extraordinary humanity” in their treatment of Aloni and her five-year-old daughter, Emilia.
“I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your extraordinary humanity shown towards my daughter, Emilia,” Aloni penned, noting that they made her daughter feel like “a queen in Gaza”.
She added: “She [Emilia] acknowledges feeling like all of you are her friends, not just friends, but truly beloved and good.”
Aloni further detailed the “kindness and compassion” that her daughter received for more than 40 days in custody.
“I will remember your kind behaviour shown in spite of the difficult situation you faced and the severe losses you suffered here in Gaza,” Aloni said.
The testimonies of the released captives showed a stark contrast in the statements made by Palestinian women and children released from Israeli prisons under the Qatar-mediated deal.
Freed Palestinian prisoner, Israa Jaabis, told local media upon her release that she witnessed “unspeakable” torture at the hands of the Israeli forces in prison.
“Little girls in prison have experienced things one can’t bear to see,” Jaabis said.
Israel had arrested Jaabis, 38, in 2015 after her car exploded while she was transporting a gas cylinder near the Al-Z’ayyem military checkpoint in Jerusalem.
Jaabis was accused of attempted murder of Israelis by allegedly detonating the gas cylinder and was sentenced to 11 years in prison.
She suffered first, second and third-degree burns on 50% of her body and lost eight of her fingers while being denied medical treatment, according to Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association.
Children released from Israeli prisons also recounted similar horrors during their captivity.
Freed Palestinian Khalil Mohamed Badr Al-Zamaira, 18, told the press upon his release on Sunday that all prisoners are subjected to mistreatment and beatings.
“They didn’t differentiate between old and young,” he told Middle East Eye on November 27.
Separately, Omar Al-Atshan, 18-year old Palestinian teenager who was also released, told Al Jazeera that he was abused until the last moments of his release. He added that another detainee, Thaer Abu Assab, succumbed to fatal beatings while in the occupation’s custody.
“He was subjected to too much beating. We cried for help, but doctors arrived after an hour and a half after he was already dead from torture,” Al-Atshan said. “He was tortured because of a question; he asked the warden whether there was a truce. Then he got beaten to death.”
The occupying entity has also banned all forms of celebrations of the Palestinians’ release and Israeli police forces surrounded the ex-prisoners’ houses to ensure that no media covered the moments of their reunification with their families.
Hours before the first batch of Palestinians were released on Friday, Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir instructed the occupation forces to crack down on all forms of celebrations.
This was seen on live television during the release of the Nofouth Hammad, 15, on Monday night. Al Jazeera Arabic’s correspondent Najwan Simri in Jerusalem being kicked out of Hammad’s house during the coverage of her release.
Hammad, the youngest female Palestinian prisoner, was detained in 2021 from her school after being accused of stabbing an Israeli settler. The Israeli settler lives in a house illegally seized from its Jerusalemite owners in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.
There are 2,070 Palestinian administrative detainees and 200 child prisoners behind Israeli bars, according to Ramallah-based Addameer.
Mass arrests have also spiked since the beginning of the Israeli genocide in Gaza, arresting at least 3,260 Palestinians in the West Bank, per figures published by Palestinain news agency (Wafa) on November 27.
Israeli occupation forces have killed at least 20,031 Palestinians, including 8,176 children, since the start of the genocide on Gaza, according to figures by Euro-Med.
The figures by the NGO are being widely cited as Gaza’s collapsed health sector stopped keeping track of the total toll after the ground invasion of Al-Shifa Hospital on November 18.