‘For the first time since Oct. 7, I can breathe’

‘We thank all the decision-makers, the planners, and the soldiers who conducted this operation. We will meet with some of them in the coming weeks,’ Aviram Meir said.

By Amelie Botbol, JNS

“I am very cheerful and full of joy. For the first time since October 7, I feel that I can breathe again,” Aviram Meir, the uncle of Almog Meir Jan, told JNS on Thursday.

Meir Jan was rescued during “Operation Arnon” last Saturday along with Noa Argamani, Andrey Kozlov and Shlomi Ziv from two separate locations in Nuseirat Camp in the central Gaza Strip.

Hamas terrorists abducted al four from the Supernova music festival near Kibbutz Re’im during the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre.

“We thank all the decision-makers, the planners and the soldiers who conducted this operation. We will meet with some of them in the coming weeks,” Aviram Meir said.

“We face a lot of challenges, good challenges. We are trying to do our best to help Almog return to his life,” Aviram said. “We hope we won’t make too many mistakes.”

Yossi Jan, Almog’s father, died hours before his son was rescued.

Officials arrived at Yossi’s home in Kfar Saba, northeast of Tel Aviv, around noon to inform him of his son’s rescue, only to find him unconscious. Magen David Adom paramedics called to the scene determined his death. Its cause remains under investigation.

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“Before he was kidnapped, Almog had a relationship with his father. He visited him often and was in touch with him,” Aviram said.

Orit and Yossi are divorced and she was not close to her ex-husband.

“We didn’t know whether we should tell him [Almog]. We decided to do so three or four hours after he had returned. We did not want him to hear it somewhere else,” Aviram said.

“His mother and a psychologist entered his room and told him the bad news. We experienced new ups and downs in this rollercoaster,” he added.

October 7

On the morning of Oct. 7, Meir Jan had called his mother, Orit, to tell her that terrorists were shooting at the festival site. He promised to update her every half hour and said he loved her. That was their last conversation for eight months.

Orit later identified her son in a Hamas propaganda video featuring five youngsters tied, beaten and terrified. The clip was the last proof of life that the family had received.

Aviram told JNS that while he is relieved to have his nephew back, he will continue to actively call for the release of the remaining 120 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.

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“We experienced a miracle because I see what is going on around us and we don’t see any deal coming soon and we see the despair of the other families,” he said.

“We are not deserting the battle, we will continue to be part of it,” Aviram said.

“We ask Almog to join us as well, be the face and the mouth of the remaining captives in the coming months or weeks and to actively get involved for their release,” he continued.

“There is nothing like the testimonies of a hostage and if Almog is okay with it, we’ll ask him to speak,” Aviram said.

On Tuesday night, Hamas submitted to Egyptian and Qatari intermediaries its formal response to the most recent hostages-for-imprisoned-terrorists-exchange proposal, including “amendments” that Israel said were tantamount to rejection.

Aviram told JNS that Meir Jan has been released from the hospital and moved to a hotel temporarily.

“For the last six months, he was held in a room on the second floor of a family house and he did not leave it, everything was in that room. The guards lived there as well,” Aviram related.

The Israel Police on Monday night released dramatic footage of Saturday’s rescue operation.

The video shows Yamam special operations border police officers storming the home of Abdullah al-Jamal, who was holding the three Israeli men hostage. Argamani was being held in another home about 200 yards away.

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“Physically, he is okay, as far as we can tell. He is still being monitored and will have to do some more medical tests, but he is generally okay,” Aviram said.

Dr. Itay Pessach, from the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, told reporters on Monday all four rescued hostages were in a “state of severe malnutrition and have been physically and mentally abused for a long time.”