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


Israeli leadership has appeared to brush aside US President Joe Biden’s proposal, vowing to keep conducting military operations against Hamas until the militant group is destroyed.
A poster portrait of hostage Nadav Popplewell. Photo: AFP

All four of the men declared dead on Monday night – Nadav Popplewell, Amiram Cooper, Yoram Metzger and Haim Peri – were kidnapped and taken into Gaza still alive, according to the Hostages Forum, a grass-roots group representing the families of the hostages.

“It is time to end this cycle of sacrifice and neglect,” the group wrote in a statement following the announcement. “Their murder in captivity is a mark of disgrace and a sad reflection on the significance of delaying previous deals.”

The group called on the government to immediately approve the new ceasefire plan.

About 100 captives were released during a weeklong exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners in November. Three of the men declared dead on Monday had female relatives who were released during the exchange.

Israel’s military spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, said the four hostages were killed while they were together, during the army’s operation in Khan Younis in central Gaza.

He said the four were killed months ago, but that recent operations allowed the military to gather enough intelligence to pronounce them dead. Their bodies are still being held by Hamas.

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

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

“We are the generation who built the foundation for the state of Israel,” Haim Peri says, noting that all the men have chronic illnesses. “We do not understand why we have been abandoned here.”

Hamas claimed in May that the other hostage pronounced deceased, Nadav Popplewell, died after being wounded in an Israeli strike, but provided no evidence. Popplewell was over the age of 50.

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

Nir Oz was among the hardest-hit towns near the border with Gaza during the October 7 Hamas attack, when Palestinian militants stormed Israel, killing some 1,200 people and hauling around 250 hostages back to Gaza.

The military said on Monday that the decision to pronounce the men dead was based on intelligence and confirmed by health officials and Israel’s chief rabbi.

The news late on Monday came after an announcement earlier in the day that the body of a presumed hostage, Dolev Yehud, 35, was found in a community near the Gaza border that Hamas militants had attacked on October 7.

Yehud was thought to be among scores of hostages held in Gaza until Monday, when the military announced the discovery of his body and said he had been killed in the initial attack.

Israeli bombardments and ground operations in Gaza have killed more than 36,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Israel has been expanding its offensive in the southern city of Rafah, once the main hub of humanitarian aid operations. The Israeli invasion of Rafah has largely cut off the flow of food, medicine and other supplies to Palestinians facing widespread hunger.



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