Israel says another four hostages are dead in Gaza, including three elderly men who appeared in video

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A protester poses as the Statue of Liberty as supporters and families of hostages kidnapped in the deadly October 7 attack by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas demand the release of hostages as part of a deal championed by US President Joe Biden, outside the US Consulate in Tel Aviv, Israel, on June 3, 2024. | Photo credit: Reuters

Four more hostages kidnapped on October 7 were declared dead by the Israeli military – including three older adults who were featured in a Hamas video pleading for release. The June 3 announcement increases pressure on the Israeli government to agree to a US ceasefire proposal that could secure the return of hostages still held in Gaza and put an end to the eight months-long war.

About 80 hostages are believed to be alive in Gaza, along with the remains of 43 others. In the days since the Biden administration announced the ceasefire proposal on June 31, Israel has seen some of its largest protests calling on the government to bring it home. Israel’s leadership appears to be brushing aside President Joe Biden’s proposal, pledging to continue military operations against Hamas until the militant group is destroyed.

According to the Hostages Forum, a grassroots group representing the hostages’ families, all four men declared dead on June 3 – Nadav Popplewell, Amiram Cooper, Yoram Metzger and Haim Peri – were kidnapped and taken to Gaza while still alive.

“It is time to end this cycle of sacrifice and neglect,” the group wrote in a statement after the announcement. “Their murder in captivity is a mark of shame and a sad reflection on the meaning of delaying previous deals.” The group called on the government to immediately adopt the new ceasefire plan.

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

Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said the four hostages were killed while together during the army’s operation in Khan Younis in central Gaza. He said the four were killed months ago, but recent operations have allowed the military to gather enough information to declare them dead. Their bodies are still being held by Hamas.

“We are looking at all options. There are a lot of questions,” he said.

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

“We are the generation that laid the foundation for the state of Israel,” says Haim Peri, noting that all men have chronic diseases. “We don’t understand why we have been abandoned here.”

Hamas claimed in May that the other deceased hostage, Nadav Popplewell, died after being injured in an Israeli airstrike, but provided no evidence. Popplewell was over 50.

According to the hostage forum, Cooper was an economist and one of the founders of Kibbutz Nir Oz. Metzger helped establish 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 Gaza border during the Hamas attack on October 7, when Palestinian militants stormed Israel, killing some 1,200 people and dragging around 250 hostages back to Gaza.

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The military said on June 3 that the decision to declare the men dead was based on intelligence and confirmed by health officials and Israel’s chief rabbi.

The news came late on June 3 following an announcement earlier in the day that the body of a suspected hostage, Dolev Yehud, 35, was found in a community near the Gaza border that Hamas militants had attacked on October 7. was among 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 bombing and ground operations in Gaza have killed more than 36,000 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which makes no distinction between fighters and civilians.

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

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