Israeli-French hostage recounts harrowing experience in captivity

Israeli-French hostage recounts harrowing experience in captivity
GPO via AP, File
FILE - This photo provided by GPO on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, shows Israeli released hostage Mia Schem, foreground centre, reuniting with her family at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, Ramat Gan, Israel.

JERUSALEM (AP) — An Israeli woman who recently returned from captivity in the Gaza Strip says she was groped by her Palestinian kidnapper and lived in constant fear throughout the weeks she was held hostage.

Mia Schem, a 21-year-old dual citizen of Israel and France, was attending a music festival in southern Israel when Hamas militants burst across the border and raided the event site on Oct. 7. More than 300 people were killed and dozens taken hostage.

She was released on Nov. 30 during a weeklong cease-fire.

In an interview broadcast Friday on Israel’s Channel 13 TV, Schem said she was captured after she got out her friend’s burning car. She said her captor began touching her upper body inappropriately and only stopped after she screamed and he noticed that she had been shot in the arm and badly wounded.

“I started screaming, going crazy,” she said. “There were burnt vehicles, bodies.”

While in captivity, she was held in a house with a family and watched around the clock by the father, Schem said. She said his constant staring made her uncomfortable and fearful that he might try to harm her. The man’s wife did not like her and sometimes denied her food for days at a time, she said.

Israeli authorities have said that sexual violence was part of the Hamas rampage into southern Israel, and they accused the international community of playing down or ignoring the pain of the victims.

The Associated Press generally does not identify victims of sexual violence, but Schem spoke out publicly about her experience.

Schem made international headlines when Hamas released a video of her in captivity days after she was taken hostage. In the video, she lay in bed as someone bandaged her right arm, and she says she wants to go home. At the time, it was the first sign of life from the hostages.

Schem said she barely slept during her time as a hostage because she was so terrified, and that she also did not shower or receive any medications. She said her captor’s children occasionally came in to look at her “like I’m some animal in a petting zoo.”

Schem said she was taken from the home into a tunnel and held with other hostages during her final days in captivity.

During this time, she said she knew she would soon be released. Schem said she was kept with six or seven people in a small room and received just one piece of pita bread a day. She said she feels guilty because of the other hostages she left behind.

Schem broke down during the interview, saying she still has not come to terms with her return as she processes the ordeal. “I can’t get it out of my head,” she said.

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