Four more Israeli hostages held in Gaza declared dead

Announcement comes amid growing pressure on Netanyahu’s government to accept US ceasefire proposal

A major protest against Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and calling for the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip took place in Tel Aviv on Monday. Photograph: Maya Alleruzzo/AP

Four more hostages kidnapped on October 7th, including three older men seen in a Hamas video begging to be released, have been declared dead by the Israeli military.

The announcement will further increase pressure on Binyamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government to agree to a US ceasefire proposal that could secure the return of the hostages still held in Gaza and end the eight-month war. About 80 hostages in Gaza are believed to be alive, while Hamas is understood to also have the remains of 43 others.

US president Joe Biden announced the latest ceasefire proposal on Friday, with Israel since seeing some of the largest protests yet calling on the government to bring the hostages home.

Although Mr Biden said the proposal was Israeli, the Israeli leadership has appeared to distance itself from the plan, vowing to keep conducting military operations against Hamas until the militant group is destroyed.


The US said on Monday it wants the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution backing the ceasefire proposal outlined by Mr Biden. It circulated a one-page draft text to the 15-member council. A resolution needs at least nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the US, France, Britain, China or Russia to pass.

The draft calls on Hamas to accept the deal and “fully and implement its terms without delay and without condition”. It also “stresses the importance of the parties adhering to the terms of the deal once agreed, with the aim of bringing about a permanent cessation of hostilities”.

Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) major democracies said in a statement that they “fully endorse and will stand behind the comprehensive” ceasefire and hostage release deal. The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Egypt said it was important to “deal seriously and positively”.

The four deceased hostages are Haim Perry, Yoram Metzger, Amiram Cooper and Nadav Popplewell. All four were kidnapped and taken into Gaza still alive, according to the Hostages Forum, a grassroots group representing the families of the hostages.

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

People protested in Tel Aviv on Monday against Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government and called for the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip by Hamas. Photograph: Leo Correa/AP

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

Hundreds of people, including relatives of the captives, gathered outside Israel’s Defence Ministry and military headquarters in central Tel Aviv on Monday, calling for a deal. Smaller protests took place across the country.

About 100 captives were released during a week-long exchange of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners in November.

Three of the men declared dead 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 southern Gaza. He said the four were killed months ago, but that recent operations allowed the military to gather enough intelligence to confirm their deaths. The men’s bodies are still being held by Hamas, and their causes of death were not immediately known.

Protesters wave signs in Tel Aviv calling for the release of hostages from Hamas captivity in the Gaza Strip. Photograph: Ariel Schalit/AP

Hamas claimed in May that one of the hostages pronounced dead had been fatally wounded in an Israeli airstrike, but provided no evidence.

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

Three of the hostages were aged 80 or older. They appeared in a video released by Hamas in December under the title, Don’t let us grow old here.

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

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. - AP/Reuters