‘You don’t know whether they’ll keep you alive or kill you’: Israeli mother held hostage with her three-year-old twins describes daily ‘Russian roulette’ of her 52-day Gaza ordeal as she begs for the release of her husband
- Sharon Alony-Cunio and her two girls Julie and Emma were held for 52 days
- The girls’ father David is still being held by Hamas somewhere in Gaza
- Sharon described her time as a hostage as a long game of ‘Russian roulette’
Israeli Sharon Alony-Cunio survived 52 days as a hostage in Gaza with her two little girls before she was released in an Israel-Hamas swap deal. But she fears for the life of her husband who is still captive in the bombarded Palestinian enclave.
Now back home with her twins, three-year-old Julie and Emma, she pleads for the remaining 137 hostages to be freed.
‘Every minute is critical. The conditions there are not good and the days go on for ever,’ Alony-Cunio, 34, revealed in her first interview since being freed from Hamas’ captivity.
‘It’s a Russian roulette. You don’t know whether tomorrow morning they’ll keep you alive or kill you, just because they want to or just because their backs are against the wall,’ she said.
Alony-Cunio was one of 240 people taken hostage on October 7 by Hamas gunmen who burst through the border with Israel and killed around 1,200 people.
Sharon Alony-Cunio (pictured) survived 52 days as a hostage in Gaza with her two little girls before she was released in an Israel-Hamas swap deal
The family has been torn apart, after father David was kept as a hostage while the other three were released
David (pictured) was separated from them three days before their release on November 27, before fighting resumed
READ MORE: Hamas vows to carry out ‘worse and greater’ terror attacks on Israeli civilians in chilling new threat after warning hostages will be executed unless their demands are met
The militants who took over her kibbutz, Nir Oz, which lies a little over a mile from Gaza, set fire to her house and took her away at gunpoint after she climbed out the window.
She was taken across the border with her husband David and one of their twins, she said.
Their second daughter was held separately in Gaza for 10 days before they were reunited in captivity with 12 other hostages under conditions she said were tough, particularly for children.
‘My children are torn,’ Alony-Cunio said. ‘I am torn without my second half, the love of my life, the father of my daughters who ask me every day, where is daddy?’
David was separated from them three days before their release on November 27, before fighting resumed. Getting the remaining hostages out should be top priority, she said.
‘I am petrified I will get bad news that he is no longer alive,’ Alony-Cunio said.
Israeli hostages released on November 26, 2023: Top L-R: Hagar Brodutch and children Ofri, Yuval and Oriya, Roni Krivoi; middle: Chen Almog Goldstein and her children Agam, Gal and Tal Almog; bottom: Avigail Idan, Elma Avraham, Aviva Siegel, and siblings Ela and Dafna Elyakim
Some 13 Israeli hostages released from Hamas captivity: Margalit Moses, Adina Moshe, Danielle Aloni and her daughter Emilia, Doron Asher and her daughters Raz and Aviv, Hanna Katzir, Keren Munder and her son Ohad, Ruti Munder, Yaffa Adar, and Hannah Perry
Pictured top-left to bottom right: Bilal and Aisha Ziyadne, 18 and 17, Ilana Gritzewsky, 30, Nili Margalit, 40, Shani Goren, 29, Amit Soussana, 40, Sapir Cohen, 29, and Mia Schem, 21
‘We are not just names on a poster. We are human beings, flesh and blood. The father of my girls is there, my partner, and many other fathers, children, mothers, brothers.’
‘Everyone gave up food for [the girls]. You don’t know if in the evening there will be [food] so in the morning you save some for the evening. Everything is very calculated, a quarter of a pita, half a pita to keep for the next morning.’
Sometimes they were fed dates and cheese and sometimes they would split meat rice and rations for six among the 12 of them.
Waiting to be allowed to go to the toilet was a problem for the girls, she said, so they had to use a sink and a rubbish bin.
‘Sometimes when there was a power cut, they let us open the door, they drew the curtain and then we would whisper. How do you keep a child together for 12 hours with whispers only?’
The US has provided unwavering diplomatic and military support for Israel’s campaign, even as it has urged Israel to minimize civilian casualties and further mass displacement
Despite not being the focus of Israel’s military campaign against Hamas, 267 West Bank Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since October 7
Residents said there was heavy fighting in and around the southern city of Khan Younis, where Israeli ground forces opened a new line of attack last week
Her group of hostages was held above ground and moved a few times, she said, but with memories still raw and with her husband still inside, Alony-Cunio was reluctant to give more details of her capture and time as a hostage.
READ MORE: Moment shirtless ‘Hamas fighters surrender with their hands up and hand over their weapons’ as IDF tanks rumble into the heart of key city in Gaza
But one of the biggest hardships, she said, was simply not knowing what was being done to get them out.
‘Every day there is crying, frustration and anxiety. How long are we going to be here? Have they forgotten about us? Have they given up on us?’
A seven-day truce saw more than 100 hostages released. The rest are still being held incommunicado as Israel bombards Gaza vowing to take out Hamas.
So far, more than 18,000 people have been killed in Gaza, according to local health authorities.
Many families of the 137 hostages still in Gaza, whose names and photos on posters line the streets of Israel, are scared.
The focus of the conflict has shifted to the besieged territory’s south following fierce fighting and bombardment that reduced much of the north to rubble and forced nearly two million people to flee their homes.
The focus of the conflict has shifted to the besieged territory’s south following fierce fighting and bombardment that reduced much of the north to rubble
Israel has pledged to keep fighting until it removes Hamas from power, dismantles its military capabilities and returns all of the scores of hostages still held by Palestinian militants
But the relentless bombing, which has killed 18,000 Palestinians according to Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza, is ‘narrowing the window’ for a new ceasefire to be agreed upon, Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said.
Israel has pledged to keep fighting until it removes Hamas from power, dismantles its military capabilities and returns all of the scores of hostages still held by Palestinian militants after being captured during the October 7 surprise attack into Israel that ignited the war.
The US has provided unwavering diplomatic and military support for the campaign, even as it has urged Israel to minimise civilian casualties and further mass displacement.
Residents said there was heavy fighting in and around the southern city of Khan Younis, where Israeli ground forces opened a new line of attack last week, and battles were still underway in parts of Gaza City and the built-up Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza, where large areas have been reduced to rubble.
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