Israel announces recovery of body of October 7 hostage Elad Katsir

The Israeli military announced on Saturday that it had recovered the body of a male hostage from one of the areas hardest hit by the Hamas-led offensive on October 7, nearly six months after his abduction.

Israeli military officials said at a press conference on Saturday that the man, Elad Katzir, 47, was killed in mid-January while in custody in Gaza. The circumstances of his death could not be confirmed. The official spoke on condition of anonymity about military operations.

He lived in Nir Oz, a kibbutz near the border with the Gaza Strip. More than a quarter of the more than 400 residents were killed or abducted in the attack, according to the Israeli military. Among them are Katsir’s father, Abraham, who was killed, and his mother, Hannah, who was also taken hostage.

Hanna Katsir was released in November as part of a short-term ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas that saw the return of more than 100 hostages. The 76-year-old’s return came as a surprise to some of her family members, as the Iranian-backed militant group Palestinian Islamic Jihad had previously claimed she was dead.

Families of the remaining 133 hostages held in Gaza have expressed growing anger and despair, saying the Israeli government is not doing enough to reach a deal for their release. On Saturday, Katsir’s sister Kermit accused the Israeli government of not reaching an agreement in time to secure her brother’s release.

“He could have been saved if there had been an agreement in time,” she wrote about her brother on Facebook. “But that didn’t happen because our leaders are cowards motivated by political considerations.”

According to Israeli authorities, around 100 people are still being held hostage by Palestinian militants in the enclave. More than 30 other people are now estimated to be dead.

The Israeli military said Katsir’s body was recovered by troops from Khan Yunis, a city in southern Gaza where Israeli troops have been operating since December. Israeli forces arrived in southern Khan Yunis around 8pm on Friday night, isolated the area and exhumed the bodies from where they had been buried underground, military officials said.

The military said an Israeli forensic pathologist confirmed his identity, after which authorities informed his family. The Israeli military’s claim that he was killed by the Islamic Jihad forces that captured him could not be verified.

Islamic Jihad had released at least two videos of Mr Katir, a farmer born in Nir Oz. He was last seen in a video released in early January in which he said he had been in custody for more than 90 days and explained that he had heard on the radio from Nir Oz that his close friend had died. did.

Over the past few weeks, Israel and Hamas have resumed indirect negotiations over a possible ceasefire and the release of at least some hostages. Hamas announced in a statement to Telegram on Saturday that a leadership delegation would visit Cairo on Sunday for further negotiations.

On Friday, President Biden sent a message to the leaders of Egypt and Qatar, which serve as mediators between Hamas and Israel, urging them to increase pressure on Hamas to reach a deal. He called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to do the same.

Israeli leaders claim that continued “military pressure” on Hamas will force it to come to the negotiating table. Families of many hostages are calling for more immediate action, fearing their loved ones will be killed by their captors or by mistaken Israeli fire.

“Your story wasn’t supposed to end this way,” Kermit Katzir wrote about his brother on Facebook Saturday. “I’m sorry I couldn’t save you,” she wrote, adding, “I love you forever.”

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