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hostage revelations

Hamas drugged hostages before releasing them

Israeli Health Ministry confirms Hamas gave hostages tranquilizers, extra food, right before their release so they would look better than their actual health condition

OREN ZIV/AFP via Getty Images

Released Israeli hostages siblings Maya (C) and Itay (C back) Regev arrive to their family home in the city of Herzliya near Tel Aviv, on December 4, 2023, after spending a few days in hospital following their release from captivity by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas gave Israeli hostages tranquilizers to make them appear to be in good spirits when their release was filmed, an Israeli Health Ministry official confirmed on Tuesday.

The revelation came during a Knesset Health Committee meeting on the health conditions of the 110 civilian hostages returned to Israel from Gaza last week, in a swap for Palestinians held on terrorism-related charges. 

Some large accounts on X, TikTok and other social media had claimed that hostages looked at the Hamas terrorists who were handing them over to the International Red Cross with affection.

Yet Likud lawmaker Moshe Saada said he heard from hostages’ families that “they were given all kinds of pills so that they feel high.”

“Is that true?” he asked.

Ronit Endevelt, head of the Nutrition Department in Israel’s Health Ministry, said “yes.”

“That’s something the public didn’t know,” Saada continued. “What kind of pills?” 

Health Ministry Head of General Medicine Hagar Mizrahi responded that they were given “Clonex, to improve their mood.”

Clonex is the Israeli brand name for what is known in America as Klonopin, a tranquilizer of the benzodiazepine class. It is a sedative and muscle relaxant with hypnotic properties that takes effect within an hour. It can give those who take it a euphoric feeling, and is sometimes used as a recreational drug.

“This is part of the psychological terror Hamas put [the hostages] through,” Saada said. “A pill like this, for someone who is not used to its influence, works quickly to give you a feeling that you’re high when their mental state was actually very low.” 

The drugging is part of the physical violence, psychological torture and neglect to which the hostages were subjected.

On the topic of nutrition, a presentation the Health Ministry showed the committee stated that most of the hostages lost significant weight. Children held together with adults fared better, and the injured were in worse nutritional condition. Some of the doctors who cared for the hostages said last week that they were in a state of malnutrition and lost 10-20% of their body weight.

Endevelt said that the hostages were also given food right before their release so that they would look healthier. 

Many hostages were severely lacking in Vitamin D because they were kept out of the sunlight, and some experienced digestive problems, according to the Health Ministry, and further nutritional problems, such as digestive issues and eating disorders, are likely to appear in the future.

Shir Siegal, daughter of U.S. citizen Aviva Siegal, who was freed, and Keith Siegal, still held hostage by Hamas in Gaza, said that their captors “handcuffed them, they tortured them, they didn’t give them medicine.”

“There are stories that they were treated them OK, they were given food — they didn’t give them food, they didn’t give them water,” Siegal said. “As we’re speaking a Holocaust is taking place three hours from here…[Aviva] told me last night, ‘How can I function when I know exactly what is happening there [in Gaza] and my husband is still there?’ So tell me, what am I supposed to say to my mother?”

Several hostages’ relatives used the meeting to encourage all parts of Israel’s government to do all they can to free their loved ones and expressed anguish that the hostage releases are not continuing.

The Health Committee meeting focused on the care that freed hostages have received since their return to Israel. Each returned hostage has been accompanied by a nurse from their health fund to ensure that they are getting the medications they need, as well as to coordinate their physical and mental healthcare. Israel’s National Insurance Institute assigned a social worker to each hostage’s family and granted each hostage NIS 100,000 ($26,800 USD).

In addition to providing medical care for the hostages, the Health Ministry documented “findings on their bodies” that indicate war crimes were committed while they were still in the hospital, according to the presentation shown to the committee.

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