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In the two months since his captivity in Gaza began, militants tied Andrey Kozlov’s hands and feet, leaving marks on his body. They tried to convince him that the outside world, including his parents, had abandoned him.

“Your mother is on vacation in Greece,” the warriors told him. “Your mother knows absolutely nothing about you and doesn’t want to know.”

The account of Mr. Kozlov’s eight months in captivity, told by his parents in an interview, comes after he and three other hostages were rescued by Israeli commandos on Saturday in central Gaza, in a The operation left dozens of Palestinians dead. The details offer further indications that Gaza’s rebels are mistreating hostages, after those released last November during a temporary ceasefire said they had endured a brutal assault. temporary ceasefire. physical, emotional And even sexual abuse.

The risky rescue lifted the public mood in Israel and prompted spontaneous celebrations, but it also highlighted the plight of the more than 100 living and dead hostages still trapped there. Gaza.

“He said it was very difficult,” said his mother, Evgeniia Kozlova, who along with his father, Mikhail Kozlov, spoke to The New York Times this week in Tel Aviv. “It’s hard to express in words.”

Hamas says it treated the hostages well compared to Israel’s treatment of Palestinian prisoners, a claim that Israeli officials vehemently dispute. In an apparent attempt to wage psychological warfare, Ms. Kozlova said, his captors told Mr. Kozlov, 27, a Russian-Israeli, that the Israeli government had concluded that the hostages were a burden.

“They asked Andrey to be very quiet because they, the hostages, were a problem for Israel,” she said. “They say Israel can solve this problem any way it wants, including killing the hostages so it doesn’t have to think about them anymore.”

The rebels’ statements affected Mr. Kozlov, she said — so much so that when Israeli forces arrived at a residential area in central Gaza to rescue him, she said, he was initially unsure whether they were there to save him or not. kill him.

Evgeniia Kozlova, sitting, said her son, Andrey Kozlov, had gone through “very difficult” circumstances during his months as a hostage in Gaza. Jenifer Master, Andrey’s girlfriend, is standing behind her.Credit…Ohad Zwigenberg/Associated Press

Since the start of the war, Israeli forces have rescued only seven of about 250 people kidnapped in Gaza during a Hamas-led attack on October 7 against southern Israel. (More than 100 hostages were released in November as part of a short-term ceasefire; at least a third of the 120 hostages who remained in Gaza have died, according to Israeli authorities). according to Gazan health authorities, of the deaths of more than 200 Palestinians, many of them civilians.

Israel has criticized Hamas for taking hostages in civilian areas. Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official, said on Sunday that the group tried to keep civilians out of the conflict. But Hamas has taken advantage of urban areas in Gaza to give its militants and weapons infrastructure an extra layer of protection, running tunnels under residential areas, setting up rocket launchers near people’s homes and took hostages in the city center.

Unlike the other hostages, Mr. Kozlov was never taken into Gaza’s vast network of underground tunnels, his mother said, and was told by guards that his situation was much better than that of the other hostages. . She said he received food throughout his captivity, but it was usually simple items like pita bread, cheese and tomatoes.

His mother added that during his imprisonment, Mr. Kozlov only went out at night when he was transferred to a new location. She said he was transferred several times throughout the war.

Mr. Kozlov, Andrey’s father, said months ago, when he and his wife discussed whether they wanted their son to be rescued in a military operation or freed through a diplomatic agreement, both both support a deal. But since no deal materialized, they wanted to bring him home by any means possible.

When asked about the Palestinian civilians who died in the rescue of their son, Mr. Kozlov said he was saddened by their deaths.

“If it were possible to avoid these victims, it would be much better,” he said.


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