Israeli peace activist held hostage by Hamas says ‘I don't believe in peace now’

Ada Sagi has spoken for the first time about her 53 days in captivity at the hands of Hamas


Missing: Ada Sagi (Photo Noam Sagi)

An Israeli peace activist who was captured by Hamas terrorists on October 7 and held hostage for 53 days in Gaza has told the BBC how the experience shattered her faith in in peace.

In a moving interview with the BBC’s Emma Barnett on Radio 4's Today programme, Ada Sagi said her experiences on October 7 and the reaction to what has followed have destroyed her belief that peace is possible between Palestinians and Israelis.

She told listeners how she was kept hostage by paid guards in an apartment in Gaza and was taken to a hospital by Hamas before she was released as part of a ceasefire deal in November.

The Arabic and Hebrew teacher and peace activist, who was taken hostage from the Nir Oz kibbutz, said: “I don't believe in peace, I don't sorry. I understand Hamas don't want it."

Sagi cried as she described how her hopes in peace had been shattered by her ordeal.

"I lost my home. I lost my freedom - the whole place that I [have] to go back. Our village - kibbutz - is destroyed," she said.

“I cried good. I'm not ‘iron woman’, like everybody says. Sometimes you cry and it's good. My mother would say: ‘To cry, it cleans the eye.’”

Sagi is one of many Israelis who lived near the Israel-Gaza border in order to work on peace-building with Palestinians.

Before October 7 she worked teaching Israelis Arabic so that they would be able to speak to their neighbours.

Describing the moment she was taken hostage she said: “There were seven people in my home, taking the television, shooting everything, they asked me where the keys for the car is? I said take it.

“They pulled me outside without shoes, bare foot. At 9:30 I was on the motorcycle between two Hamas terrorists. I wanted to take shoes and they said no.”

She described seeing terrorists outside her home and people running and shooting.

“I was terrified, terrified and afraid. I think they are taking me and I won’t come back,” she said.

Sagi described being cut with a knife by one of the terrorists “by accident” and being hit deliberately with a Kalashnikov gun above her eye which caused her bruising.

“I cooperated because I didn’t want to struggle with them,” she said.

“My right foot was on the exhaust and I got bad burns on my heel.”

She described the moment, once inside Gaza, that she was handed over to her captor who said he was not Hamas but a member of Islamic Jihad.

He told her she was “like a diamond” and he would keep her to negotiate with Israel.

The Hamas attack on October 7 killed 1200 people and saw some 251 hostages taken into Gaza.

Sagi, whose son Noam lives in the UK, turned 75 while she was held captive by Hamas terrorists.

Speaking to the BBC about the hostages still in Gaza she said: "Israel has to do the deal... bring back home all these hostages who are alive and also dead.”

It was the first time in six months that Sagi has spoken to the media about her ordeal.

She described how when she was first taken into Gaza, she and some other hostages were held in a family home with children.

She said the next day she was taken to an apartment in the southern city of Khan Younis. Sagi said the man who owned the apartment was a nurse and had sent his wife and children to live with his in-laws.

During her captivity, she heard students who were tasked with watching the hostages discuss how much they were being paid to do so.

She said: "I heard them say... 70 shekels [£14.82; $18.83] for a day.

"It's a lot of money in Gaza because they have no work. And if you have worked not with Hamas, it's no more than 20 shekels for a day.”

“I am a prisoner. In the first apartment, they told us we want to exchange you.”

Sagi described the anxiety and fear she felt in the run-up to her release and how “talking a lot” to her fellow hostages helped her.

It was announced that a deal would release older women and children and one of the women she was being held with was "terrified" she was too young to be included.

Sagi explained: “Our housekeeper said: ‘No. You came together, you go together.’"

She described the moment Hamas militants told them “You are going home."

"At lunchtime, they gave us food... they take us by car to Khan Younis and we go [un]til the border of Rafah [on the border with Egypt].”

But the plans were suddenly changed and they returned to Khan Younis.

She said: “We are told they are releasing women with children, [and you feel] all the happiness that you are going to be released, and [then] something goes wrong.”

Sagi said she and other hostages were taken to southern Gaza's main hospital, Nasser.

Speaking about being held in a civilian home and hospital she said: "People say that they are not involved. They're involved... and getting money from Hamas."

The hospital's director, Dr Atef al-Hoot told the BBC that no hostages were kept there and “it only provided humanitarian services.”

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