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Israeli military recovers bodies of 3 more hostages from Gaza; ICJ to rule on halting Rafah offensive

The bodies of three more hostages killed during the Hamas attacks on October 7 have been found in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli army announced Friday, as the CIA chief traveled to Europe to try to restart peace talks. ceasefire and that the highest level of the United Nations tribunal is ready to rule on whether Israel should suspend its operations in the Palestinian enclave.

Hanan Yablonka, Michel Nisenbaum and Orion Hernandez were killed on October 7 at the Mefalsim intersection and their bodies were transported to Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement Friday morning, citing intelligence.

Their remains were found in the Jabalia camp, north of Gaza, during a nighttime joint operation between the IDF and the Israeli Security Agency, which saw “intense fighting” carried out in the area, the IDF said. army.

Hanan Yablonka, Orion Hernández and Michel NisenbaumHostage Families Forum

It comes as Israeli forces continue to expand their operations within the enclave, with the Israeli army battling Hamas in parts of northern and central Gaza, troops previously saying had cleared the fighters activists.

Israeli troops have also moved deeper into Rafah, the southern Gaza city where more than a million people have sought refuge during the war, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee and worsening the humanitarian crisis there. while testing the red lines laid out by the Biden administration.

CIA Director William Burns will hold meetings in Europe in coming days with the head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency and the prime minister of Qatar in hopes of restarting deal negotiations truce that would also guarantee the release of remaining prisoners, the Israeli official said. said.

The official also said that the Israeli government believes it is likely that the International Court of Justice will not order a complete ceasefire in the Gaza Strip when it rules later Friday, but that it could order an end to military operations in Rafah. The Israeli government will study the ruling before making a decision, the official said, but will not accept a court order ending the war against Hamas.

South Africa last week asked the court to demand a halt to the assault on Rafah as part of the country’s ongoing case accusing Israel of genocidal acts during the war, amid growing international outrage that has left Israel increasingly diplomatically isolated.

Israel and the United States have both rejected the genocide charge, and Biden did the same this week after the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court sought arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders.

The ICC – based in The Hague, Netherlands – can charge people with war crimes and other related charges. It is separate from the ICJ, which considers cases between states and has no real power to enforce its decisions.

More than 35,000 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Palestinian enclave’s Health Ministry, in the months since Israel launched its offensive following the Hamas attacks on October 7, which marked an escalation major in a conflict that has lasted for several decades.

About 1,200 people were killed on October 7, and some 250 others were taken hostage in Gaza, according to Israeli officials. Around 125 people remain captive in Gaza, and at least a third of them are believed to be dead.

In a video press briefing on Friday, IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said Israeli forces “would not stop the fighting” to see the hostages return. “Every decent country in the world would do the same,” he said.

Hernandez, 30, was the partner of Shani Louk, 23, whose body was also found in Gaza during an operation earlier this month, said the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, which represents the families of hostages held in Gaza. Hernández was a French-Mexican citizen who resided in Mexico and leaves behind a young daughter, the forum said.

French President Emmanuel Macron offered his condolences to Hernandez’s family on Friday in a statement broadcast on X, saying: “France remains more than ever committed to the release of all the hostages.”

Nisenbaum was described as a 59-year-old Brazilian-Israeli citizen and father of two daughters from Sderot. He was taken hostage while trying to save his 4-year-old granddaughter who was with her father in the Re’im region, the forum said.

Yablonka, a 42-year-old father of two from Tel Aviv, was taken hostage during the Nova music festival, which he had attended with friends.

It was not immediately clear when Israeli officials learned that the trio had been killed on October 7.

Reuven Yablonka, Hanan Yablonka’s father, said Friday that he first learned of his son’s death on social media, before being informed by the IDF.

He said he received more than 300 messages, with his daughter later telling him “she didn’t want to say anything but people were sending messages on Telegram saying Hanan had been killed.”

“When the IDF called at 8:30 p.m. asking if they could come, we realized it was all true,” he said in an interview with Israeli television station Channel 12. NBC News did not have was able to immediately contact the families of the three men. .

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he and his wife mourned the deaths of the three men, while praising Israeli forces for acting “with great courage in the heart of enemy territory, to return them to their families and to the grave of Israel. “.

“We have a national and moral duty to do everything we can to return those taken – lives and spaces – and that is what we are doing,” he said.

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