Berliner Tageblatt - Parents in 'emotional shock wave' after son freed from Gaza

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Parents in 'emotional shock wave' after son freed from Gaza
Parents in 'emotional shock wave' after son freed from Gaza / Photo: © AFP

Parents in 'emotional shock wave' after son freed from Gaza

When Andrey Kozlov saw his mother after being rescued from eight months of captivity in Gaza, the Russian-Israeli fell to his knees while she hugged him.

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"It was so emotional that we just could not talk", Kozlov's mother, Evguenia, told AFP of the day she was reunited with her son last week, in images broadcast over Israeli TV and social media.

She feared "that Andrey would not be the same again", she said, adding that the meeting "was a storm of energy, an emotional shock wave coming from him".

Andrey Kozlov, 27, was freed on June 8 during an Israeli army operation in Nuseirat, a refugee camp in central Gaza, along with Noa Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 22, and Shlomi Ziv, 41.

All four had been kidnapped by Hamas militants on October 7 from the Nova electronic music festival, five kilometres (three miles) east of the Gaza Strip, during the Palestinian Islamist movement's unprecedented attack on southern Israel.

Evguenia Kozlov and Andrey's father, Mikhail, both 52, live in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and boarded a plane the day after his liberation to see their son after eight months of waiting for news.

In an interview in Russian in Tel Aviv, they told AFP of what their son went through.

"He tells us certain things. He says there are others that he will never tell," his father said.

"One day, one of his captors showed him that he would film and kill him on camera to show the world. And he said it would not be now, but tomorrow, and he left (Andrey)... He must have thought about it all day," Mikhail said.

His parents say that Andrey told them he spent two months with hands and feet bound, "and at the beginning had his hands tied behind his back".

- 'Deprived' -

Asked about Andrey's state of mind five days after his return to Israel, where he had moved a year and a half before the attack, his parents said "it is now difficult for him to make decisions -- even simple ones -- as he was deprived of this opportunity for a long time".

"He does not know what to say when we give him a choice between rice and pasta," his father said.

When he was freed, Andrey, who had spent part of his captivity with the two other men rescued in the Israeli operation, was shocked to learn that 116 hostages remained in Gaza, out of 251 people forcibly taken to Gaza on October 7.

The captives still in Gaza include 41 whom the Israeli army believes to be dead.

Andrey "is one of those who can fully imagine the conditions endured" by the remaining hostages, Mikhail Kozlov said.

Like other families of freed hostages, the Kozlovs want to fight for those still held in Gaza.

"Our entire family is terribly worried about these people, and we call on governments to quickly reach an agreement and help these people return to their families," he said.

On Monday, the mother of former captive Almog Meir Jan said in a press conference that "the remaining hostages need a deal to get home safely. There is a deal on the table. We ask the Israeli government to move forward with the deal."

Ever since a short-lived truce in late November, hopes for a ceasefire have been regularly dashed.

More than 100 hostages were freed during the truce -- among them 80 Israelis in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

A total of seven hostages have now been freed during three different Israeli army operations.

Hamas's October 7 attack resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Israel's retaliatory offensive in the Gaza Strip has left more than 37,232 people dead, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-ruled territory's health ministry.

R.Adler--BTB