By Dan Williams
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – An Israeli hostage who was freed as part of a temporary truce in the Gaza Strip had previously mounted a brief escape from his Hamas captors after the building where they were holding him collapsed during a barrage, his relatives said.
Roni Kriboy, 25, was a surprise addition to the roster of hostages released on Sunday, alongside 13 women and children who had been pre-agreed in mediated Israel-Hamas negotiations.
Citing Kriboy’s dual Russian citizenship, Hamas said he was freed to show appreciation for Moscow, the only world power openly engaging the group during the now seven-week-old war.
Like other recovered hostages, Kriboy has been kept away from the media in what Israeli authorities describe as an effort to focus on helping with their physical and emotional recovery.
His family said Kriboy had vanished while working as a stage hand at an outdoor dance party where armed Hamas infiltrators killed 364 revellers on Oct 7, out of a total death toll of 1,200. Israeli authorities determined a week later that he was among some 240 people taken captive.
Kriboy’s aunt, Yelena Magid, said in an interview with Israel’s Kan radio that she spoke to Kriboy after his return.
“He recounted being seized by terrorists, who held him in a building that was bombed,” she said, in an apparent reference to Israeli shelling, adding that he sustained head wounds there.
“He managed to escape and to hide out, alone, for four days. He tried to reach the border. In the end, the Gazans caught him and returned him to the terrorists’ hands.”
Kriboy’s cousin, Alex Magid, gave a similar account in an interview to Israel’s Army Radio on Monday, adding that the bombing of the building killed several Palestinian gunmen.
Six hostages still in Gaza hold Russian citizenship, according to the Israeli government.
(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Nick Macfie)