Jerusalem, Dec 1 (EFE) – Four more people held hostage by the Islamist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip were confirmed dead by the Israel Defense Forces on Friday, after one hostage had been confirmed dead the day before. Israeli authorities estimate that 136 hostages remain in the Palestinian enclave.
“A team of Health Ministry experts, the (Abu Kabir Forensic Institute), the chief rabbi and Religious Affairs Ministry declared their deaths based on findings that were collected and intelligence,” IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari said of the victims, who were middle-aged and elderly residents of the two kibbutz that were most violently attacked on Oct. 7.
The army did not provide details on how the Gaza deaths occurred.
On Friday, the IDF confirmed the deaths of four residents of Kibbutz Nir Oz: Maya Goren, 56; Ronen Engel, 55; Eliyahu Margalit, 75, and Arye Zalmanovich, 86, the oldest Israeli taken hostage by Hamas. On Thursday, the death in captivity of Kibbutz Be’eri resident Ofra Keidar, 70, was confirmed.
“We are continuing to invest many intelligence and operational efforts, to bring information on the conditions of the hostages,” Hagari said during a press conference.
In addition, soldiers deployed in Gaza were able to recover the lifeless body of 27-year-old Ofir Tzarfati “for burial in Israel,” Hagari added.
According to Hagari, Hamas is still holding 136 hostages.
Among them are 125 Israelis and 11 foreigners: eight from Thailand, one from Nepal, one from Tanzania and one with French-Mexican citizenship.
Among the 136 are 17 women and two children. About ten of the hostages are 75 and older.
The two children are brothers Ariel and Kfir Bibas, ages 4 and 10 months, who were abducted along with their mother, Shiri Silverman Bibas – of Argentine origin – and their father, Yarden Bibas.
The military has said it’s investigating a Hamas claim that the boys and their mother were killed in an Israeli airstrike.
Israel and Hamas on Friday broke a cease-fire negotiated by Qatar, Egypt and the United States, which included the release of hostages in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and provided a seven-day pause in the war that erupted on Oct. 7.
During the truce, 105 hostages were released: 81 Israelis and 24 foreigners (23 Thai and one Filipino).
Four more hostages had been released before the cease-fire was agreed, an Israeli-American mother and daughter and two elderly Israeli women.
On the other hand, Israel has recovered the bodies of three hostages who perished in Gaza: that of Tzarfati, announced on Friday, as well as those of a soldier and an elderly woman.
Hagari said Friday that for the cease-fire to continue, Hamas must release the mother and two children of the Bibas family, but the Islamist group refused.
The war began after an onslaught by the armed wing of Hamas that included the firing of thousands of rockets into Israel and the infiltration of some 3,000 militiamen who massacred some 1,200 people and kidnapped more than 240 in Israeli towns bordering the Gaza Strip. EFE