Gaza war: 9-year-old boy who spent birthday as Hamas hostage released

Ohad came running down a hospital corridor straight into his father's arms, as the pair were reunited after almost 50 days

By Reuters

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This photo shows Ohad Munder-Zichri on October 1, six days before he was taken hostage. — Reuters
This photo shows Ohad Munder-Zichri on October 1, six days before he was taken hostage. — Reuters

Published: Sat 25 Nov 2023, 4:14 PM

Remember the Israeli boy who spent his ninth birthday as a hostage in Gaza? Ohad Munder was among four young children freed from captivity on Friday.

He returned with his mother and grandmother to Israel on the first day of the four-day truce and prisoner exchange.

Footage released by Schneider Children's Medical Centre showed Ohad running down a hospital corridor straight into his father's open arms, as the pair were reunited after almost 50 days without any contact. His father then lifts him up.

The four children were all in relatively good condition, Gilat Livni, the centre's Director of Pediatrics told reporters. Some spoke of what they had been through, she said, but declined to provide further details.

"They shared experiences, we were up with them until late at might and it was interesting, upsetting and moving," said Livni.

More of Ohad's relatives can't wait to reunite with him.

"I'm waiting to see Ohad and can't wait to give him his Rubik's cube which I know he really loved and he probably missed it so much," said his 27-year-old cousin Roni Haviv, as she watched footage of Ohad, wearing a Spiderman baseball cap being handed over by Hamas fighters to Red Cross staff.

"That's the first thing he takes everywhere he goes," she added.

Hospital photos later showed Ohad playing with a Rubik's Cube and blowing bubbles.

Ohad's father said mother Keren, 54, and grandmother Ruth, 78, were all fine and healthy. But Ohad's grandfather, 78-year-old Avraham Munder, remained in captivity in Gaza.

The 13 Israeli hostages released by Hamas fighters included sisters aged 2 and 4 and their mother, a 5-year-old girl and her mother, as well as elderly women. They were among around 240 people abducted by gunmen during the October 7 attack.

Besides Israeli hostages, 10 Thais and one Filipino, who were taken captive at the same time, were also freed under a separate agreement, Qatari mediators said.

After their release, hostages underwent initial medical checks and were taken to be reunited with their families.

"We've all anxiously awaited their return and are elated to see the day that they have come home to us," said Yosef Mendelovich, associate director of the ministry of health.

The rest of a group of at least 50 Israeli hostages due to be exchanged under a Qatari-brokered agreement are expected to be freed in the coming days and more hostages could be added if the truce deal is extended.

Egyptian security sources said they had received the names of 14 Israeli women and children from Hamas to be released on Saturday and were waiting for more details on when the hostages would be handed over to Egyptian authorities..

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