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Israel declares 4 more hostages are dead in Gaza, including 3 older men from Hamas video

JERUSALEM (AP) — Four more hostages kidnapped Oct. 7 have been declared dead by the Israeli military — including three older men seen in a Hamas video pleading for their release. Monday’s announcement increases the pressure to the Israeli government of accept an American ceasefire proposal which could guarantee the return of the hostages still held in Gaza and put an end to the eight month war.

Around 80 hostages in Gaza are believed to be alive, alongside the remains of 43 others. In the days since President Joe Biden announced the proposed ceasefire on Friday, Israel has seen some of its largest protests calling on the government to repatriate them. Although Biden said the proposal was Israeli, Israeli leaders appeared to distance themselves from the plan, vowing to continue carrying out military operations against Hamas until the militant group is destroyed.

The four men reported dead Monday evening – Nadav Popplewell, Amiram Cooper, Yoram Metzger and Haim Peri – were kidnapped and taken to Gaza while still alive, according to the Hostages Forum, a local group representing the families of the hostages.

“It is time to end this cycle of sacrifice and neglect,” the group said after the announcement. “Their killing in captivity is a mark of shame and a sad reflection on the importance of delaying previous agreements. » The group called on the government to immediately approve the new ceasefire plan.

Hundreds of people, including relatives of the captives, gathered Monday evening outside the Israeli Defense Ministry and military headquarters in central Tel Aviv, calling for a deal. Smaller protests took place across the country.

About 100 captives were freed during a week-long hostage exchange for Palestinian prisoners in November. Three of the men reported dead Monday had female relatives who were freed in the exchange.

Israeli army spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said the four hostages were killed while they were together during the military operation in Khan Younis in southern Gaza. He said the four men were killed months ago, but recent operations had allowed the military to gather enough intelligence to confirm the deaths.

Their bodies are still being held by Hamas and the cause of death was not immediately known. Hamas claimed in May that the other hostage declared deceased, Nadav Popplewell, died after being injured in an Israeli airstrike, but provided no evidence. Popplewell was over 50 years old.

“We are checking all options. There are a lot of questions,” Hagari said.

Cooper, Metzger and Peri were all aged 80 or older. They appeared in a video released in December by Hamas under the title “Let’s not let us grow old here.” In the video, the three men appear gaunt, dressed in thin white T-shirts.

“We are the generation that laid the foundation for the State of Israel,” Peri said, noting that all the men suffered from chronic illnesses. “We don’t understand why we were abandoned here.”

Cooper was an economist and one of the founders of Kibbutz Nir Oz, according to the hostage forum. Metzger helped found the kibbutz winery and Peri built the community’s art gallery and sculpture garden.

Nir Oz was one of the hardest-hit towns near the border with Gaza during the Hamas attack on October 7, when Palestinian militants stormed Israel, killing some 1,200 people and returning about 250 hostages in Gaza.

The news came Monday evening after an announcement earlier in the day that the body of a suspected hostage, Dolev Yehud, 35, had been found in a community near the border with Gaza that Hamas militants had attacked on October 7. dozens of hostages held in Gaza until Monday, when the army announced the discovery of his body and said he had been killed in the first attack.

Israeli bombings and ground operations in Gaza have killed more than 36,000 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Ministry of Healthwhich does not distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Israel expanded its offensive into the southern city of Rafah once main hub for humanitarian aid operations. The Israeli invasion of Rafah has largely cut delivering food, medicine and other supplies to Palestinians facing widespread hunger.

News Source : apnews.com
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