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Israel confirms 4 hostages killed in Gaza, military investigating circumstances of deaths

Israel has confirmed the deaths of four more hostages, including three elderly men seen in a Hamas video begging for their release.

Deaths include 3 elderly hostages previously seen pleading for freedom in video Hamas released in December

A composite image of four older men. The man on the left has grey hair, a grey beard and is wearing silver rim glasses; the man at centre left is bald with a light brown and grey moustache; the man at centre right is bald with brown rim glasses; and the man on the right is bald with a light brown beard and wearing black rim glasses.

The Israeli military on Monday confirmed the deaths of four more hostages held by Hamas — including three older men seen in a Hamas video begging for their release.

The three men were were identified as Chaim Peri, 80, Yoram Metzger, 80, and Amiram Cooper, 84. Looking weak and wary, they appeared in a video in December released by Hamas under the title, "Don't let us grow old here."

The fourth hostage was identified as 51-year-old Nadav Popplewell.

Israel's military spokesperson, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said the four men died together in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis when Israel was operating there a "number of months" ago.

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.

The cause of their deaths was not immediately known, but Hagari acknowledged "there are a lot of questions."

"We are thoroughly examining the circumstances of their deaths and checking all possibilities. We will present soon the findings, first to their families, and then to the public," he said. "We will present them with transparency, as we have done until now."

Israel carried out a major offensive in Khan Younis, a Hamas stronghold, early this year. Hamas claimed in May that Popplewell had died after being wounded in an Israeli airstrike, but provided no evidence.

WATCH | Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari says four hostages likely killed several months ago:

Israeli hostages killed when IDF forces were operating in the area, says spokesperson

11 hours ago

Duration 0:43

Israel Defence Forces (IDF) spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari says four hostages were likely killed in Khan Younis several months ago, during a period the IDF were mobilized in the area. He offered condolences to the families of the hostages Haim Peri, Yoram Metzger, Amiram Cooper and Nadav Popplewell.

Men taken alive during attacks

Cooper, Metzger and Peri were featured in a Hamas propaganda video in which Peri, clearly under duress, said in the video that all three men had chronic illnesses and accused Israel of abandoning them.

Peri was at his house in Kibbutz Nir Oz during the Hamas attack. He tried to repel the gunmen while hiding his wife behind a sofa, his son later told Reuters. He eventually gave himself up to save his wife, who remained hidden, his son said.

Cooper and Metzger, also from Nir Oz, were captured along with their wives, both of whom were returned to Israel during a brief November truce.

Cooper was an economist and one of the founders of Kibbutz Nir Oz, according to the Hostages Forum, a grassroots group representing the families of the hostages. Metzger helped 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 Oct. 7 attack.

Popplewell, according to the Hostages Forum, was captured with his mother from her home in Kibbutz Nirim. His brother was killed during the attack. His mother was freed during the November truce.

A soldier walks among the debris of a burnt house.

On Oct. 7, Hamas-led militants took some 250 hostages back to Gaza. Roughly half were released during a brief ceasefire period in November, in an exchange for Israel releasing 240 Palestinians detained in its prisons.

There are some 130 hostages remaining in Gaza. About 85 are believed to still be alive, alongside the remains of 43 others.

The news late Monday came after an announcement earlier in the day that the body of a presumed hostage, Dolev Yehud, 35, was found in a community near the Gaza border that militants had attacked on Oct. 7.

Yehud was thought to be among scores of hostages held in Gaza until Monday, when the military announced the discovery of his body and said he had been killed in the initial attack.

According to Israel, around 1,200 people were killed during the Hamas-led attack. Israel's subsequent assault on Gaza has killed more than 36,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials.

WATCH | Video shows capture of female Israeli soldiers during the Oct. 7 attacks:

Disturbing bodycam video shows bloody capture of female Israeli soldiers

12 days ago

Duration 2:16

Newly released video shows the capture of young female Israeli soldiers during the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attacks. Families of hostages desperate for their return pushed to have the video made public.

Hostages group demands ceasefire agreement

In the days since the Biden administration announced the ceasefire proposal Friday, Israel has seen some of its largest protests calling on its government to bring the hostages home.

Israeli leadership has appeared to brush aside U.S. President Joe Biden's proposal, vowing to keep conducting military operations against Hamas until the militant group is destroyed.

The Hostages Forum said the killings of the four men are "a mark of disgrace and a sad reflection on the significance of delaying previous deals."

"It is time to end this cycle of sacrifice and neglect," the group wrote in a statement calling on the government to approve the new plan.

WATCH | Three-phase ceasefire plan calls for release of all hostages, rebuilding Gaza:

Biden backs Israel-Hamas ceasefire plan

3 days ago

Duration 2:08

U.S. President Joe Biden is backing an apparent Israeli proposal that could end its war with Hamas. The three-phase plan also calls for the release of all hostages, and rebuilding Gaza.

With files from Reuters

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Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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