‘Like a horror movie’ – Freed hostage recounts captivity

Gazan civilians had “the biggest party” to celebrate kidnapping of Israelis, says former hostage.

By World Israel News Staff

A former hostage held in Gaza recalled the chaos of October 7th when she kidnapped and the brutal treatment she endured from her captors while in the coastal enclave, speaking to the Washington Post in her first media appearance since her release.

Moran Stella Yanai, 40, was captured at the Nova Music Festival – the site of the largest slaughter of Jews in a single day since the Holocaust – but was freed in a hostage exchange deal in December 2023.

Yanai was selling her handmade jewelry at the event when Hamas terrorists suddenly stormed the festival, brutally murdering attendees and raping scores before killing them.

In an ordeal that lasted more than five hours, Yanai hid in a potato field and a ditch, before being discovered by a group of terrorists.

Yanai, who speaks basic Arabic, convinced the terrorists that she was Arab and they eventually let her go.

While fleeing, Yanai fell and fractured her ankle in two places.

She was then targeted by another group of terrorists who believed she was an Israeli soldier, because she was wearing khaki green pants.

The men beat her as they dragged her into a stolen Israeli car, then forced her eyes open so she was made to see “cheering, jeering” crowds of Gazans celebrating her kidnapping.

“Welcome to Gaza,” said the ringleader of the terror cell that kidnapped Yanai.

“They felt like they had won a prize,” she told the Post. “It was the biggest party I’ve ever seen.”

Yanai was initially brought to a hospital in order to treat her fractured ankle, where a Gazan doctor spoke to her in Hebrew.

She begged the doctor for help, but his response was terrifying, she recounted.

“But he just smiled at me…like a horror movie,” she said.

“That was the moment I did the switch in my head, and I understand that I am in a very bad situation. From then on, it was — survival, commence.”

Yanai told the Post that she had been moved to various civilian houses during her time in Gaza, while enduring incessant psychological torture.

Her captors repeatedly told her that her family had forgotten about her, the state of Israel had been destroyed, and nobody was working to free her.

Although Yanai was not sexually assaulted by her captors, she said that other hostages had told her about rapes they had endured in captivity.

In the 51 days she was held, Yanai lost 17 pounds and her ankle healed incorrectly, requiring surgery upon her return to Israel.

Additionally, Yanai sustained a serious allergic reaction to lice, which had infested her scalp due to the subhuman conditions in which she was held.