IDF Confirms Deaths of Four Israeli Hostages Held by Hamas

Four Israeli hostages have died while in , the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed Monday after obtaining new intelligence. 

The kibbutz Nir Oz said earlier Monday that three of their founders who were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists on October 7 and taken hostage were killed while in captivity. 

 An IDF spokesperson said Amiram Cooper, Yoram Metzger, and Chaim Peri – all of whom were 80 or older – were killed several months ago along with Nadav Powell in Khan Yunis, while IDF troopers were operating in the area. Their bodies are still in Gaza. 

Cooper, Metzger, and Peri were seen in a video 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 ,” Haim Peri says, noting that all the men have chronic illnesses. “We do not understand why we have been abandoned here.”

The IDF said Monday that the family members of the victims have been informed of their deaths. 

“The decision to pronounce the four hostages dead was based on intelligence and was confirmed by a Ministry of Health expert committee, in coordination with the Ministry of Religious Services and the Chief Rabbi of Israel,” an IDF spokesperson said. “The circumstances of their death in Hamas captivity are still under examination by all the relevant professionals.” 

Hamas claimed in May that the other hostage pronounced deceased, Nadav Popplewell, died after being wounded in an Israeli airstrike, but provided no evidence to that effect. Popplewell was 51.

Monday’s announcement heightens pressure on the Israeli government to agree to a 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, alongside the remains of 43 others. In the days since the Biden administration announced the cease-fire proposal on Friday, Israel has seen some of its largest protests calling on the government to bring them home. Israeli leadership has appeared to brush aside President Biden’s proposal, vowing to keep conducting military operations against Hamas until the militant group is destroyed.

About 100 captives 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.

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 Hamas attack Oct. 7, when Palestinian militants stormed Israel, killing some 1,200 people and hauling around 250 hostages back to Gaza.

Israeli bombardments and ground operations in Gaza have killed more than 36,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run 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.