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Freed Israeli hostage Kozlov cries with joy during reunion with his parents flown in from Russia

Rescued hostage Andrey Kozlov reunites with his parents, June 9, 2024 (Photo: Hostages and Missing Persons Coordinator's Office)

After 245 difficult days in Hamas captivity in Gaza, 27-year-old former Israeli hostage Andrey Kozlov was freed on Saturday in a complex and daring Israeli rescue operation together with the three other rescued hostages Noa Argamani (25), Almog Jan (21) and Shlomi Ziv (40).

All four were brutally kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists while attending the outdoor Nova Music Festival close to the Gaza border on Oct. 7.

Kozlov dropped to his knees and cried tears of joy when he was finally reunited with his parents, who arrived in Israel on Sunday morning from their home in St. Petersburg, Russa. The emotional reunion took place at Sheba Medical Center outside of Tel Aviv.

"I am the happiest. We've spoken with Andrey, and he looks and feels fine, he's even joking," Kozlov’s mother Yevgenia said. According to local news media, the consul at the Israeli Consulate General in St. Petersburg, Tal Schwarzman, personally escorted the Kozlov family to the airport once they were informed of the good news about the rescue of their son.

Israeli hostages Almog Meir Jan and Andrey Kozlov land in Israel after being rescued from Gaza (Photo: IDF)

Kozlov's family expressed their sincere gratitude to the family of Arnon Zamara, the counterterrorism commander who tragically died from wounds he sustained while fighting Hamas terrorists during the rescue operation in central Gaza.

"Andrey is in relatively good condition; he talks and shares with us what happened," Kozlov’s father Mikhail said. Thinking about his parents and his girlfriend Jennifer reportedly gave Kozlov the strength to endure the long and difficult captivity in Gaza. "Every day, he thought about his family," Mikhail added.

Kozlov, who was born in St. Petersburg, moved to Israel just one and a half years before he was brutally abducted by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7. He lives in Rishon Lezion with his girlfriend Jennifer, who reportedly worked as a security guard at the music festival.

Kozlov was held hostage in Gaza with Almog Jan and Shlomi Ziv and, according to reports, the three supported each other during the long days of captivity.

“They supported one another, even down to the level of telling each other stories and helping each other shave, the little things,” said Geut Elgrabli, the sister of Jan. “Andrey taught them Russian and they learned Arabic together and kept each other busy,” she added.

Andrey Kozlov with medical staff at Sheba Medical Center (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

Shlomi Ziv’s relative Yanai Eliyahu assessed that the three freed hostages had developed “a relationship built for life.”

“They went through the most difficult experiences imaginable,” Eliyahu said.

Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza are believed to still be holding up to 120 hostages.

To date, Israeli forces have rescued seven hostages in high-risk dramatic counter-terrorism raids in the Gaza Strip.

In February, Israeli special forces rescued the two Israeli hostages – Norman Louis Har and Fernando Simon Marman – in a dramatic operation in Rafah, located in southern Gaza. The operation took place before the IDF's incursion into Rafah, which was under Hamas' control at the time, making the operation extremely risky.

In November, 105 hostages – 81 Israelis, 23 Thai citizens and one Filipino – were released in late November as part of an indirect agreement between Hamas and Israel. The deal also saw the release of numerous Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails in exchange​.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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