Israeli hostages were singled out for especially brutal treatment by their Hamas captors, Thai farm workers freed by the terror group have said.
Anucha Angkaew was captured during the October 7 attacks. He is one of the few survivors of Hamas captivity to have spoken in detail about their ordeal.
After witnessing one of his friends being executed in front of his eyes, he was taken into Gaza along with five of his countrymen.
Once inside the enclave, the Thais were handed over to a small group of men who led them to an abandoned house and tied their hands behind their backs.
There they were joined by a terrified 18-year-old Israeli, a man Anucha said he knew from Kibbutz Re’im, where he worked on an avocado farm. Then the beatings began.
“We shouted ‘Thailand, Thailand,’” Anucha, 28, told Reuters, helping to ease the intensity of the blows. But the young Israeli wasn’t spared.
An hour later, the group were driven to a small building that led into a tunnel. Near its entrance, they were beaten again and photographed, Anucha said, before walking through a dark passage to a small room.
In this windowless space, which measured around five feet by five feet and was lit by a bulb, the group were joined by another Israeli man.
The militants continued kicking and punching the captives for two days, Anucha said. After that, they continued with another two days of beatings for the Israelis, who were lashed using electrical wires.
“The Israeli hostages had it worse,” said Manee Jirachat, another of the Thai hostages who survived 50 days in Hamas captivity.
Their Hamas guards would shout at the Israelis while the Thai hostages received medication, he told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.
The group spent their first days in captivity tied up on a plastic sheet. Only after it was established that they were Thai citizens were they untied and allowed to take short walks in the tunnels each day, he said.
More than 240 people were taken hostage by Hamas as the terror group rampaged across southern Israel on October 7. Among them were Israelis, as well as dozens of migrant workers from a range of countries, including Thailand, the Philippines, Tanzania and Nepal.
War playing out above ground
Negotiations between Israel and Hamas that led to a short pause in fighting saw 110 of those hostages freed.
While in captivity, Anucha and the others had no idea of the war playing out above ground between Hamas and the Israeli military.
At one point, a guard left behind a pen, which helped the men to pass their time, marking their days in captivity, drawing tattoos and sketching out a chessboard on the plastic sheet that also served as their bedding.
On day 35, a man in black arrived for an inspection. The hostages believed he was a senior leader, given how he acted and how the guards responded.
“I didn’t think I would get released,” Anucha said.
But suddenly, one day, a guard showed up and said: “Thailand, go home.”
Female Israeli hostages
Anucha and three other Thais in his group were then led through tunnels for about two hours before arriving at a Hamas facility. There, they found a group of female Israeli hostages also waiting.
Eleven hours later, they were handed over to the Red Cross, which drove them out of Gaza on Nov 25.
“It was like I was reborn,” he said.
Anucha was not seriously injured, but weeks after his release from captivity, his wrists still bear marks from the restraints.
The hardest part was still what he witnessed on October 7. “I lost my friend in front of my eyes,” he said.
More than 130 people are still being held as hostages, including eight Thais.