‘We didn’t know if they would kill us the next morning or keep us alive,’ says former hostage

Sharon Alony-Cunio was held for 52 days by Hamas along with her three-year-old twins; her husband is still a captive.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A mother whom Hamas terrorists abducted on October 7 together with her husband and their three-year-old twins gave her first interview Monday since being released in a hostages-for-Palestinian prisoners deal last month that the threat of death was constant, and terrifying.

“It’s a Russian roulette,” said Sharon Alony-Cunio. “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.”

Her family was among some 240 people, including the elderly and infants, that Hamas fighters brought back to the Gaza Strip during their massacre of 1,200 people, mostly civilians, when they broke through the security fence in more than two dozen places and went on a rampage that included burning victims alive and beheading babies.

One of the twins was separated from the rest of the family after they were captured, and was only given back to her and husband David ten days later.

Living conditions were severe, she noted, with eight other captives being squashed together with them in a small space, often sitting in the dark for hours at a time. They were not given enough food, and it wasn’t provided regularly, either.

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“We didn’t know if in there would be pita in the evening,” she said, “so in the morning we saved some for the evening.”

Sometimes the Israelis received some dates, cheese, rice or a bit of meat, which was enough only for six but was stretched so that all twelve could have some.

Her fellow captives touched her deeply by passing on their own rations to her daughters, Yuli and Emma.

“Everyone gave up food for them,” she noted.

The challenges for the little girls went beyond food. As other hostages have attested, the Hamas captors forced Alony-Cunio’s group to talk at most in whispers as well, and “How do you explain to a three-year-old girl that she needs to be quiet for 12 hours straight?” she asked rhetorically.

For the adults, the fear that came with being cut off from the world was one of the worst parts of captivity, she said.

“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?”

The 34-year-old mother and her children were freed in the fourth tranche of a week-long set of releases that saw 86 women and children brought back to Israel in exchange for over 250 Palestinian security prisoners held in Israeli jails, and hundreds of truckloads of humanitarian aid.

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Fifteen women and two young children are still being held by Hamas, even though the agreement had stipulated that all civilian females and minors would be released. Some of the women are IDF soldiers, who fall under a different category according to the terror organization, and it has claimed that the two youngsters, a toddler and a baby, were killed by Israeli fire weeks ago, along with their mother.

All the male captives, except for one Russian-Israeli released as a goodwill gesture to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and 23 of 33 Thai agricultural workers who were freed with Iranian mediation, are still being forcibly held in Gaza. These include very elderly men as well as young ones like IDF soldiers – and Alony-Cunio’s husband, David.

“I am petrified I will get bad news that he is no longer alive,” she said, adding, “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.”

According to the former hostage, the single most important thing was to get the estimated 138 remaining abductees out.

“Every minute is critical. The conditions there are not good and the days go on forever,” she said.

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Neither the girls nor she have returned yet to normal after their harrowing experience, their mother attested. “Every door slam, every passing plane, the girls cling to me. They have temper tantrums,” she said. “We can’t be in crowded places with yelling going on, because it reminds us [of where we were]…. It means not to sleep with the door closed. Life has changed. It’s not life.”