An Israeli mother and her two young daughters experienced “psychological warfare” over the 50 days they were held hostage by Hamas, including being told, “In Israel no one cares about us.”
Doron Katz Asher and her daughters 5-year-old Raz and 2-year-old Aviv were not physically harmed — but rather subjected to extreme emotional torment that included witnessing Asher’s mother being shot dead by Hamas while they were forcibly being taken to Gaza, Asher told CNN.
Asher, 34, and her daughters were first held in a house in Gaza, where her captors tried to sell them a story that no one was fighting for their release.
“They didn’t give us a lot of information, they mainly tried to say that Hamas wants to release us but in Israel no one cares about us,” Asher said.
“That we won’t return to live in the kibbutz because it’s not our house – it’s not the place where we belong.”
But she didn’t believe that narrative as the sound of fighting booming outside the building reassured her “that something was going on in order to get us back home, to put pressure on Hamas to release us.”
Sixteen days later, Asher and her daughters were taken to what she called a “so-called” hospital — because a hospital is “a place that is supposed to take care of people, but instead, it was taken over by Hamas and they used it to hide hostages,” Asher noted.
US officials are “confident” Hamas used Gaza’s largest hospital to hold “at least a few” hostages seized during the bloody Oct. 7 attack on Israel, though it’s unclear which hospital Asher and her daughters were held in.
While in the hospital, Aviv contracted a fever and had to be kept in a sink with cold water to keep her temperature down.
“She was screaming. They would tell us to keep quiet, but the girl had a fever and I had to take care of her somehow,” Asher said.
The family was kept in the hospital for nearly five weeks before they were “smuggled” out of the hospital into a Hamas vehicle.
“No one told us that we were getting released, so the drive through the streets of Gaza was very, very frightening,” Asher said.
While they were being taken away, thousands of people lining the streets were trying to hit the car and bang on its windows, Asher recalled, noting it was the first time Raz said she was scared.
Asher and her daughters were just three of 105 people released by Hamas during a temporary truce with Israel, which went from Nov. 24 to Dec. 1.
Though video footage shared online shows members of Hamas kindly transferring hostages to the Red Cross, Asher said the display was “one big show.”
Before I was released, my girls and I were barefoot for 50 days. We were cold because they were wearing short sleeves in November.” But before they were handed over to Red Cross staff, they were given shoes and Hamas members “put me in a nice dress,” Asher said.
Video of Asher and her daughters’ tearful reunion with their father, Yoni Asher, 37, was shared online late November as the trio was part of the first wave of hostages to be released by Hamas.
Asher says she and her family are trying to regain a sense of normalcy while they wait on the release of her slain mother’s partner, 79-year-old Gadi Moses, who is still in captivity.
“We’re waiting for him, he’s going to be 80, he’s without his meds,” Asher said.
Moses and another hostage, Gadi Katzir, 47, were seen in a video released by the Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, in December, begging the Israeli government to arrange their release.
“He got very skinny – we saw him in the video,” Asher said.
“I can’t comprehend what has happened to my family, and I can’t comprehend the inhumanity of them. People who murder people in their beds. Who does that? That’s not human.”