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British-Israeli among four Gaza hostages confirmed dead by Israel

Four more hostages kidnapped by Hamas on 7 October have been confirmed dead by the Israeli military – including a British-Israeli man.

Nadav Popplewell, 51, was killed along with Chaim Peri, Yoram Metzger, Amiram Cooper “a number of months” ago in the city of Khan Younis, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, spokesperson for the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), said on Monday.

Recent operations had allowed the military to gather enough intelligence to pronounce them dead, Mr Hagari added. Their bodies are still being held by Hamas, he said.

Hamas posted a video of Mr Popplewell last month and said that he had died of wounds sustained during an Israeli air strike.

Mr Cooper, Mr Metzger and Mr Peri were all aged 80 or older. They also appeared in a video in December released by Hamas under the title, “Don’t let us grow old here.” In the video, the three men appeared gaunt, wearing thin white T-shirts.

“We estimate the four of them were killed together in the area of (the southern Gaza city) Khan Younis a number of months ago while being held by Hamas terrorists, at the time IDF forces were operating in Khan Younis,” Mr Hagari said in remarks that were broadcast.

“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.”

(FILES) A poster portrait of hostage Nadav Popplewell is seen as relatives and supporters of Israeli captives held in Gaza since the October 7 attacks by Hamas militants, gather before the start of a four-day march to Jerusalem calling for their release, on February 28, 2024, near the site of the Supernova music festival in southern Israel. An Israeli community confirmed on June 3, 2024, the death of Israeli-British hostage Nadav Popplewell in the Gaza Strip, after Hamas militants said last month he had died of wounds. "Kibbutz Nirim announces with deep sorrow the death of abductee Nadav Popplewell in the captivity of Hamas in Gaza," the community said in a statement. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP) (Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images)
A poster portrait of Nadav Popplewell is seen as relatives and supporters of Israeli captives held in Gaza since the October 7 attacks by Hamas militants gathered before the start of a four-day march to Jerusalem in February (Photo: Jack Guez/AFP)

Mr 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.

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

Mr Popplewell, according to a hostages support group, was captured with his mother from her home in Kibbutz Nirim. His brother was killed during the attack, while his mother was freed during the November truce.

Of the more than 250 people abducted on 7 October, about 80 hostages in Gaza are believed to be alive, alongside the remains of 43 others.

Monday’s announcement heightened pressure on the Israeli government to agree to a US ceasefire proposal that could secure the return of the hostages still held in Gaza and end the eight-month war.

Phase one of the proposed deal would last for six weeks and include a “full and complete ceasefire”, a withdrawal of Israeli forces from all densely populated areas of Gaza and the release of a number of hostages, including women, older people and the wounded, in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

The second phase would include the release of all remaining living hostages, including male soldiers, and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. The third phase calls for the start of a major reconstruction of Gaza.

In the days since the Biden administration announced the proposal, Israel has seen some of its largest protests calling on the government to prioritise the welfare of the captives.

“It is time to end this cycle of sacrifice and neglect,” the Hostages Forum, a grassroots group representing the families of the hostages, wrote in a statement.

“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 ceasefire plan.

About 100 captives were released during a weeklong exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners in November.

The Israeli leadership has so far appeared to brush aside President Joe Biden’s proposal, vowing to keep conducting military operations against Hamas until the group is destroyed.

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