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Israel declares 4 more hostages are dead in Gaza

Israel declares 4 more hostages are dead in Gaza
People protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government and call for the release of hostages in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, June 1, 2024   -  
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Maya Alleruzzo/Copyright 2024 The AP All rights reserved

Gaza City

Four more hostages kidnapped on Oct. 7 were declared dead by the Israeli military — including three older adults seen in a Hamas video begging to be released. Monday's announcement heightens pressure on the Israeli government to agree to a U.S. cease-fire 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, alongside the remains of 43 others. In the days since the Biden administration announced the cease-fire proposal Friday, Israel has seen some of its largest protests calling on the government to bring them home. Israeli leadership has appeared to brush aside the President Joe Biden's proposal, vowing to keep conducting military operations against Hamas until the militant group is destroyed.

All four of the men declared dead 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 grassroots 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 cease-fire plan.

About 100 captives were released during a weeklong exchange of 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 Adm. 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.

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