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The latest on the hostages taken by Hamas

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The release of four hostages by the militant group Hamas has raised hopes that more of the over 200 abducted Israelis and foreign nationals could be set free. One of the Israeli hostages released late last night said she had been through a living hell. Eighty-five-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz spoke to journalists at a press conference at a Tel Aviv hospital, where she was being treated after her release. Her daughter stood at her side and translated.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SHARONE LIFSCHITZ: My mom is saying that she was taken on the back of a motorbike, that she was taken through the ploughed fields, and that while she was being taken, she was hit by a stick.

KELLY: Hit by sticks. But she added that she was treated, quote, "kindly" by her captors.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LIFSCHITZ: When she first arrived, they told them that they are Muslims and they're not going to hurt them, and that they ate the same food that Hamas was eating.

KELLY: With each passing day with prospects for a ground invasion growing, families of the remaining hostages grow more anxious about their fate. NPR spoke with the parents of two kidnapping victims, and as Peter Kenyon reports, their days are filled with dread as they wait for news.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: The Tribe of Nova festival, staged near kibbutz Re'im in southern Israel, not far from the border with the Gaza Strip, was supposed to be a celebration of, quote, "friends, love and freedom," a night of dancing and revelry. Hamas had other plans. Twenty-one-year-old Maya Regev and her 18-year-old brother, Itay, were among those looking to have a good time at the festival. On Saturday, October 7, their father, Ilan, had no idea anything was amiss when his phone began ringing. It was the kind of call every parent dreads.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MAYA REGEV: (Non-English language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

MAYA REGEV: (Non-English language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

MAYA REGEV: (Screaming, inaudible).

KENYON: Maya said, dad, they shot us. They shot us - though Ilan couldn't tell if she had been hit or if their car had been shot at. Maya screams, he's killing us, Dad. He's killing us - and then says, dad, I love you. We're inside the car. Ilan says, quote, "I'm coming, honey. Send me the location." And then the call breaks off. Ilan Regev says he immediately drove south, not knowing if his daughter or son were wounded or even still alive. He says all the way there, he was phoning the police, but no one answered. When he reached a hospital in southern Israel, he found his children weren't there. He tried to find someone from the military who could tell him what was going on.

ILAN REGEV: You talk with them to - and they can tell us what happened. There is no one with who to talk. Only in Monday, they come to us in the night, and they tell us that both of our children have been kidnapped.

KENYON: Maya and Itay's mother, Mirit, would learn of the phone call and Ilan's desperate drive to the south a bit later on. She got her first word of the Hamas attack from the news.

MIRIT REGEV: (Through interpreter) I turned on the television, and in that moment, my life went upside down completely. Channel 12 was on nonstop. I see kids get out of the bushes, and I am telling myself, my kids must be hiding. There is no way this is happening to them. At that time, I do not know what is happening with Maya. To this day, we have not received a video of Maya.

KENYON: Mirit Regev says they released audio of Maya's call in hopes of spurring greater efforts to release the hostages. She also feels an overwhelming desire for a sign that they are alive.

MIRIT REGEV: (Through interpreter) We do everything. We shout Maya's last cry to her father in front of the whole world so they will know and bring our children home.

KENYON: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to do everything possible to rescue the hostages. He has also spoken of a large ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, which some say could endanger the hostages. The Regevs are not among the families who have been loudly condemning Netanyahu or the IDF or Israeli intelligence for failing to anticipate the Hamas attack. Ilan Regev says Israel's army is the best. For now, they are among the hundreds of mothers and fathers desperately hoping someone can win the release of their children and bring them back home. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Jerusalem.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANDERSON .PAAK AND KNXWLEDGE SONG, "WHERE I GO (FEAT. H.E.R.)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Peter Kenyon
Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.
Alon Avital