Israel says bodies of three captives killed on October 7 recovered in Gaza

Army says it retrieved bodies of Itzhak Gelerenter, Amit Buskila and Shani Louk, who were killed at Nova music festival.

Families and supporters of Israeli captives held by Hamas fighters demonstrate outside the Israeli ministry of defence in Tel Aviv on December 15, 2023, calling for an immediate deal or their release in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.
Families and supporters of Israeli captives held in Gaza demonstrate outside the Israeli Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv, calling for an immediate deal to secure their release [File: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP]

The Israeli army says the bodies of three captives who were killed during the October 7 attacks by Palestinian groups on southern Israel have been recovered from the Gaza Strip.

Military spokesman Daniel Hagari said in a statement on Friday that the bodies of Itzhak Gelerenter, Amit Buskila and Shani Louk were found during an operation by the army and the country’s internal security service, Shin Bet.

Hagari said the three “were murdered by Hamas while escaping the Nova music festival” on October 7 and “their bodies were taken into Gaza”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the operation and offered his condolences to the families.

“We will return all of our hostages, the living and the deceased alike,” he said. “I commend our brave forces whose determined action has returned the sons and daughters to their own border.”

The announcement was made as Israel continues to bombard Gaza, where its military offensive has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians and spurred a dire humanitarian crisis in the besieged enclave.

More than 1,100 people were killed in Hamas’s attacks on October 7 while 253 were taken captive. The Israeli envoy to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, told a UN Security Council meeting on Thursday that 132 captives remained in Gaza.

Last week, Hamas’s armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, released a video announcing British-Israeli captive Nadav Popplewell’s death. The group said Popplewell had died of wounds sustained in an Israeli air strike a month ago.

The video was released amid growing domestic pressure on the Israeli government to secure the release of the remaining captives.

Thousands of Israelis, including relatives and other loved ones of those still held in Gaza, have taken to the streets in recent days to demand that Netanyahu do more to free them.

Many have also called on Israel to agree to a ceasefire to bring their relatives home safely.

Reporting from Amman, Jordan, on Friday, Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan said an advocacy group working on behalf of the captives’ families would likely not be satisfied by Netanyahu’s statement on the retrieval of the three captives’ bodies.

Al Jazeera is reporting from outside Israel because it has been banned by the Israeli government.

The Bring Them Home campaign has said Netanyahu “hasn’t done enough to try and get people out”, Khan said.

“Expect in the coming hours to see people out on the streets. We’ve seen these spontaneous protests in the past.”

Naama Weinberg, whose cousin Itai Svirsky was abducted on October 7 and is believed to have been killed in captivity, last week urged the Israeli government to take urgent action.

“Soon, even those who managed to survive this long will no longer be among the living. They must be saved now,” Weinberg said.

“There is no victory and can be no victory without the return of the hostages.”

Despite the immense pressure, Netanyahu’s government rejected a ceasefire proposal this month that Hamas had agreed to.

In response to the Israeli military’s announcement on Friday, Hamas said it is “sceptical” of Israel’s claims. The Palestinian group added the only way for the remaining captives to return alive is through a truce.

“The resistance believes that the enemy will not get its prisoners except as lifeless corpses, or through an honourable exchange deal for our people,” it said.

During the war’s only truce, which lasted a week at the end of November, 110 Israeli and foreign hostages were released in exchange for 240 Palestinians being held by Israel.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies