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19 Jul 2024 4:45
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  •   Home > News > International

    Hamas guards told hostage Almog Meir Jan that Israel didn't care about him, but then he saw his own face on TV

    After months of being held captive by Hamas, Almog Meir Jan wondered if he'd been forgotten. Then he saw himself on his guards' television.

    Israeli hostage Almog Meir Jan, 21, wondered if he had been forgotten.

    He had been imprisoned for five months in a dark room on the second floor of an apartment building in central Gaza, alongside two other hostages, Andrey Kozlov and Shlomi Ziv. They were all bored out of their minds.

    "They had nothing to do all day long, so they played cards – Rummy," Almog's uncle Aviram Meir told 7.30.

    The men were allowed to leave the room only to use the apartment's bathroom.

    "They couldn't see what's going on outside," Mr Meir said. 

    "The curtains were all the time closed. They were living in the dark."

    The men's captors were in an adjoining room, watching them through an open door.

    "The guards told them that the State of Israel forgot them, and nobody wants to deal with them."

    Then, one Saturday night, as he passed through the guards' room on his way to the bathroom, Almog caught a glimpse of the guards' television. 

    Al Jazeera was showing a clip of a rally in Tel Aviv, where protesters were calling for the government to do more to secure the release of the hostages. Someone in the crowd was holding a poster – of Almog.

    "Then he understood that he hadn't been forgotten," Mr Meir said.

    "It gave him lots of strength to continue being there, while he was knowing that everyone was thinking about them."

    He told the other hostages what he'd seen. 

    "Almog, the first time he saw his picture, [said,] 'it's me, it's me on the poster!" Andrey Kozlov said. "And for him, he started to breathe."

    Of course, Israelis had not forgotten Almog or any of the other 116 hostages who remain unaccounted-for. 

    Almog's own family was part of the vast "Bring Them Home" movement lobbying its government to make a deal with Hamas to secure the release of the surviving hostages.

    'He didn't know what happened to Tomer'

    On October 7 last year, Almog Meir Jan was at the Nova rave with his friend, Tomer Strosta. The pair knew each other from their military service.

    "They were partying together, they were dancing together," Mr Meir said.

    When Hamas attacked they tried to escape in a car along with two girls. The friends were separated after a rocket-propelled grenade hit a car beside them.

    "Almog escaped to another direction, and he'd been captured next to the road."

    Tomer was murdered.

    "He didn't know what happened with Tomer until he came back, after eight months," Mr Meir said.

    The family knew Almog had been captured alive because Hamas released a clip of him with four other men.

    "After they finished filming the clip, Hamas pulled him out and separated them, and from the first day in the evening, he joined Shlomi and Andrei and he has been with them all the eight months, together," Mr Meir said.

    "So they are a very good team together, they love each other and they can speak with blinks of the eye.

    "I believe they will keep in touch all their lives."

    The men's captors initially moved them to different locations, but after two months they were placed in the apartment in Nuseirat refugee camp. They remained there for the next six months.

    They knew a family lived below them, on the first floor of the building.

    "There were five children. They never saw them. They just heard them," Mr Meir said.

    This may have been the family of Abdallah Aljamal, who worked as a spokesman for the Hamas-run labour ministry. Gaza health authorities say 274 people were killed during the raid on June 8, including Aljamal and his family.

    Israel says around 100 people were killed in the raid.

    Another hostage, Noa Argamani, was rescued during a raid on a nearby building. She'd been held separately from the three men.

    Almog 'very quiet' since rescue

    Mr Meir said the rescue of the four hostages was "enormous".

    "It gave lots of energies in a very bad period of time where everything looks lost, or crumbling," he told 7.30.

    "For us it's a miracle. And for the Israeli people, it was a very big joy. It's unbelievable the happiness it gave to the people of Israel."

    He said the medical advice to the family is to tread gently with Almog, who remains "very quiet" after his rescue.

    "So we are not asking too many questions, and we're giving him time to digest anything he wants."

    In the hours after Almog was rescued, the family had to deliver two terrible pieces of news: that Tomer was murdered by Hamas and Almog's own father Yosii died on the morning of his rescue.

    "He has to deal with the death of his father, with the death of his best friend, who he didn't know had been murdered on the 7th of October."

    Almog and his mother are staying in a hotel because the family is worried he'll be overwhelmed by wellwishers at home.

    "What we are afraid of is too much love from the citizens of his city," Mr Meir said.

    Mr Meir is continuing his lobbying efforts even after his nephew's release, speaking to 7.30 from Israel's Knesset building, where he's urging politicians to do more.

    "It's important to me to be here to talk with the parliament members, to talk with the ministers, to emphasise the importance of a deal for releasing the hostages. This is the most important task of Israel.

    "The clock of the hostages is short. 

    "Demolishing Hamas can be [done] in five years, or 10 years, or in 20 years, but the hostages don't have time."

    Watch 7.30, Mondays to Thursdays 7:30pm on ABC iview and ABC TV

    © 2024 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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