SHEFAYIM, Israel: Simona Steinbrecher holds up two images of her daughter, Doron. One shows a young woman with twinkling eyes and a big smile. The other, from a video distributed by Hamas 107 days into the war, shows an emaciated, pale woman, with an almost lifeless gaze.

Doron, a 30-year-old veterinary nurse managed to telephone her mother Simona moments before she was abducted to Gaza from her home in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, one of the communities worst hit in Hamas’ Oct 7 attack on southern Israel.

In the brief call, Doron said that gunmen were heading to her room. 

“It’s every mother’s worst nightmare,” Steinbrecher said.

“It was awful. I’m close by but I can’t go to her because the entire area is sprawling with terrorists – I know she is being kidnapped and I can’t help her,” she said. 

Doron is one of 134 hostages still held in Gaza, which has been under Israeli land, sea and air bombardment since Oct 7, in an offensive that has killed more than 30,000 people and laid much of the enclave to waste.

Steinbrecher’s nightmare was made worse in late November, when some hostages released in a swap deal reported abuse in captivity. “Doron is a young woman and the fear is of sexual violence, rape, even pregnancy,” she said.

At least three released female hostages have spoken publicly, including one in an interview with Reuters, about incidents of sexual abuse against fellow captives. 

Hamas has repeatedly denied allegations of sexual violence. 

A report by a UN team of experts released on Monday said they found “clear and convincing information” that some hostages were subjected to sexual violence and that such violence may be ongoing.


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