Former hostage tells how he underwent surgery without anaesthetic

Itay Regev was one of 40 people abducted by Hamas terrorists from the Nova music festival


Itay Regev, who was taken hostage at Nova music festival and released after more than 50 days, visited Westminster with a delegation of hostages' family members on 13 March 2024. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)

A freed Israeli hostage has said how he underwent surgery without anaesthetic and was spat in the face during the procedure.

Itay Regev, who turned 19 last week, was one of 40 partygoers who were taken hostage into Gaza from the Nova festival. 360 other young people were murdered at the site.

During an official visit to London, Itay told the BBC that Hamas took him to a hospital where a "very, very anxious" doctor took out the bullet without anaesthesia or painkillers. 

"They put the forceps into my leg and they pulled out the bullet without anaesthetics. They told me to be quiet because if I wasn't quiet they'll kill me. In all that time there was more abuse, slaps to the face, spitting."

On Wednesday, Itay shared further details of his harrowing ordeal alongside a panel of hostages’ family members during an All-Party Parliamentary Group meeting at Westminster, led by Stephen Crabbe MP and Margaret Hodge MP and organised in partnership with the Hostages and Missing Families Forum. He shared how Hamas “played with our heads” and how he and another hostage wrote a list of everything they wanted to do once they were free.

Itay was abducted by Hamas terrorists along with his sister Maya, 21, and her friend, Omer Shem Tov, 21. Maya was released with her brother in November as part of an exchange for Palestinian prisoners. Omer is still being held.

Itay, who spoke in Hebrew with a translator, said he spent his 54 days in captivity in a small room with Omer, whose brother Amit Shem Tov, 23, was part of the Israeli delegation in London advocating for the release of Omer and the other 133 hostages.

Itay said he and Omer passed the time by “imagining freedom, our families, laughter and planning what we will do when we get released”.

Itay said he had not known Omer before October 7, but that they had grown extremely close in captivity together. He said the pair had a notebook where they wrote “a list of things we wanted to do when we would get back home”.

“The first thing on Omer’s list was to see the sun,” said Itay. “I beg of you, help Omer and the other hostages see the sun as soon as possible.”

Itay also shared his surprise when he returned to Israel to find that posters with the faces of the hostages were everywhere and the whole world was tuned in to the conflict. He said Hamas terrorists “played with our heads”, telling him that “no one cares about me, that I am going to die here together with them, and I slowly started to believe them”.

During his testimony, Itay played a short clip of a recorded phone call between Maya and his father in the moments before the siblings were kidnapped. In the clip, Maya can be heard screaming and breathing heavily as she shouts to her father. Itay told the room of MPs and delegates: “You do not need to understand Hebrew to understand the terror and the fear that we were [experiencing.]”

He added: “My dad had to live with that recording every day as his last memory from us.”

Itay spoke only briefly about the conditions of his time in captivity, saying: “I didn’t get food, I didn’t shower, I didn’t see any daylight.”

“Life in captivity was extremely hard, and no matter how hard I try to explain, no one will realise how hard it really is,” he said.

“A lot of people are asking me if I’ve been in therapy to help with my situation. I am here to tell you that nothing helps me. The best medicine I can get is for Omer to sit here with me, Omer and all the other hostages. Only that way can I truly heal and move on with my life.

“For me the day is still the seventh of October, and it will forever stay that way until they get back. The time may have passed, but life has stopped. The families had their hearts ripped out, and they haven’t been given [them]  back.”

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