James J. Marlow

Voices from the Tunnels

Credit: 7/10 Human Chain Project

A new exhibition was set up at a secret location in east London, but this one was like no other. The only one of its kind anywhere in the world, it was open for five days to members of parliament, celebrities, leaders of faiths and communities, senior CEOs of large corporations, journalists, social media influences, and anyone who has a platform to highlight the plight of the remaining hostages.

The idea came from a small group of people who after putting up posters to highlight the barbaric kidnappings on October 7, held demonstrations outside parliament square, downing street, united nations women and at the red cross offices in London. At some of the protests, the group reminded passers-by that hostage Emily Hand, had turned 9 years old in captivity.

Little Emily has since been released, but according to her father Thomas, who has given several interviews including to CNN, his daughter is still crying, does not wish to be comforted by anyone and only speaks in a low whisper.

Emily, like many of the other children and women already released, left the tunnels traumatized, hungry and alone.

The group of people in London hanging up hostage posters and watching them being torn down by activists opposed to Israel, became even more determined and named their organization, “The 7/10 Human Chain Project”.

On January 14, marking 100-days in captivity, they organized a rally in support of Israel and more than 25,000 people packed into Trafalgar Square in London, demanding the release of all the hostages, NOW.

The next day, the project opened the exhibition that had been planned and worked on for many weeks.

It came about after one of the organizers, who just wants to be known as David, and who supplies mannequins to stores, theatres, and other places, decided to create a display of the Hamas atrocities.

The fact that mannequins are the same size as human beings or larger, with no real facial expression, created a that David wanted to capture. By this time, some of the hostages had now been released and horrific stories began to emerge.

The organizers spoke to doctors who had treated released hostages, as well as their family members, and with released IDF video footage of what was discovered in the tunnels, the exhibition was created.

Everything seen in the reconstruction of the Gaza tunnels has since been verified and cross checked with the Missing and Kidnapped Families Forum. The recreation of the tunnels in east London is based on real evidence from released hostages and the IDF.

The “7/10 Human Chain Project” invited me to view the recreation of the network of terror tunnels and we begin our tour at a makeshift hospital environment.

Beds were lined up within a large ward at ground floor level which could be like any other hospital, except as many of the tunnels were discovered underneath hospitals, schools, kindergartens, mosques, and even united nations buildings, it was a reminder of the CCTV discovered by the IDF of hostages arriving at a Gaza hospital on October 7.

We head below ground and my guide, Orit Eyal-Fibesh, who is the co-founder of the project, and a former IDF officer informs me that the actual Gaza tunnels are between 50 to 60 metres deep (170 to 200 feet), and the equivalent of 5 or 6 levels.

The engineering and high-level advanced brain power that went into constructing such a complex set of tunnels, larger than the London train underground, made me think what Gaza could have accomplished with its sophisticated engineering talent, had it not been obsessed with the destruction of Israel and all its citizens.

Once underground I see bodies covered in a bloody white sheet, which of course are mannequins, but signify the IDF entering tunnels, hoping to find hostages. Apart from just one female soldier, the rest of the hostages discovered on that day, had been murdered.

We move to the introductory room where there are various media loops on TV screens covering the unfolding events of 7 October, and the subsequent news coverage in the days and weeks that followed.

Little Kfir Bibas who was kidnapped, when he was just under 9 months old, is mentioned, along with his 4-year-old brother Ariel. Kfir turned one-year-old on January 18. The oldest person still in captivity is 85 years old.

At this point, two women appeared next to Orit, and I assumed that they had joined the group. But Orit explained they had just watched the 43-minute IDF video, which is a compilation of Hamas body cameras last October, CCTV from the kibbutzim, police, and soldier footage.

The two women were both in total shock. I hesitated to speak, but carefully asked one of them, “can you describe what you saw and your emotions right now?” They were both so overwhelmed they could not speak and began to cry.

Orit then started to sob even though she had seen the film. At this point, my eyes began to water, and I too was overwhelmed. The two women could not continue and needed to leave.

Meanwhile in the cold, damp, filthy, low tunnels, was the constant screams of “Allahu Akbar” meaning “Allah is the greatest” on a recorded loop taken from October 7.

Also on a loop recording was the sound of bombing in the distance, which was believed to be IDF air and tank fire, as troops moved in searching for the hostages being held and the Hamas leadership.

According to Israelis already released, they told doctors and family members, the Allahu Akbar shouts, when operatives came into the tunnels pumped up with adrenalin, will not leave their heads. Those hostages held underground did not know if it was night or day. They were constantly being told “No one is looking for you and no one knows you are here.”

As Orit and I head into another tunnel, we are walking amongst children’s pyjamas, children’s shoes and clothes, baby bottles, diapers, and pacifiers, which prove Hamas had been preparing for this “operation” for a long time.

Never in recent history was there a deliberate attempt to kidnap babies and small children, and it was deliberate because of the items found in the tunnels.

Hamas were prepared and discovered in the tunnels were detailed records of who was living in which house, their age, their nationality and more.

We then enter the room where Hamas operatives with their detailed paperwork are speaking to the terrorists already in the kibbutzim and giving them instructions on who lives where.

I was in the dark and damp underground tunnels for about 45 minutes with screams of “Allahu Akbar” and the sound of nearby bombing from the IDF. I cannot possibly imagine what it would be like to be there for more than 115 days with little or no food, no medication, no room to move, no shower, limited access to a toilet and an automatic weapon pointed at me.

Now we head into the operating theatre where Maya and her brother Itai are highlighted. Maya was shot in the foot while she was taken hostage and described how she walked more than 2 miles in the tunnels, with her foot almost disconnected from her leg. Her brother Itai was also shot.

None of the doctors wanted to operate on Jews and so a vet was brought in to perform the complicated operation on Maya. In what has been well documented, Maya’s foot was sown on the wrong way, while Itai was operated on without any anaesthetic. As I walk on, I hear their screams in the dark, damp, dungeon.

Next is the Hamas command center where operatives prepare to fire more rockets into Israel and next to this is a Koran and a praying mat.

In another room we see a young boy sitting on the ground in front of a TV screen. This is Eitan Yaholomi aged 12 who was kidnapped with his mother and sister on two separate motorbikes.

The mother and sister managed to escape when one of the bikes hit a tank. Eitan was left on his own and once in Gaza, made to watch some of the footage of the barbaric atrocities Hamas committed.

If Eitan started to cry they threatened him with pain and death. He spoke fluent Arabic when he was released from Gaza after 50 days.

The stories of the elderly hostages are just as horrific. Emma was released more than two months ago but remains in hospital. She was on medication before being taken hostage, but she was well. Since being released, Emma’s organs have failed because of the conditions in which she was held.

Many of the tunnels did not have high ceilings and the elderly had to walk crouched over for miles in the damp, dark and wet tunnels.

The older people were forced to sleep on the floor. They had to wait 12 hours before using the toilet.

Noam Sagi is the son of one of the released hostages from kibbutz Nir Oz and visited the London tunnels, testifying it was an accurate depiction. His mother was taken when she was 74 years old and turned 75 in captivity. She was one of the lucky ones because she was sold for money to Islamic Jihad and then taken above ground and held in a family home.

Ada was also sold to Islamic Jihad for money and held above ground. She believed in peace with her neighbours, lived on the border and spoke fluent Arabic, as she was an Arabic teacher. She refuses to speak to the media today, but a family member says she will eventually write about her captivity.

Orit reminds me that many of the hostages suffered from chemical burns because they were not allowed to shower once. Doctors discovered they were drugged, probably with Ketamine, which is used to induce a state of sedation and immobility.

The exhibition is a sight of images that one cannot unsee and the screams in the head are unimaginable. The voices from the tunnels will echo in me for a long time.

About the Author
James J. Marlow is a broadcast journalist and public relations media consultant. He has previously worked for ITN, EuroNews, Reuters, Daily Mail, Daily Express, LBC Radio, Sky News and GB News. In addition he has trained and prepared hundreds of business and entertainment people, politicians and Rabbis, for the media, including television, radio and audiences.
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