Arab foreign ministers say important to deal with US Gaza proposal seriously, positively

Israel says 4 more hostages have died in Gaza, including 3 elderly men in Hamas video

JERUSALEM: Four more hostages kidnapped on October 7 have been declared dead by the Israeli army – including three elderly men seen in a Hamas video begging to be released. Monday’s announcement increases pressure on the Israeli government to accept an American ceasefire proposal that could ensure the return of hostages still held in Gaza and end the eight-month war.
About 80 hostages in Gaza are believed to be alive, along with the remains of 43 others. In the days since President Joe Biden announced the ceasefire proposal on Friday, Israel has seen some of its largest protests calling for the government to bring them home. Although Biden said the proposal was Israeli, the Israeli leadership appeared to distance itself from the plan, vowing to continue conducting military operations against Hamas until the militant group is destroyed.
All four men reported dead Monday night – Nadav Popplewell, Amiram Cooper, Yoram Metzger and Haim Peri – were kidnapped and brought to Gaza alive, according to the Hostages Forum, a grassroots group representing the hostages’ families.
“It’s time to end this cycle of sacrifice and neglect,” the group said after the announcement. “Their murder while in captivity is a sign of shame and a sad reflection on the importance of delaying previous agreements.” The group called on the government to immediately approve the new ceasefire plan.
Hundreds of people, including relatives of prisoners, gathered outside the Israeli Defense Ministry and military headquarters in central Tel Aviv on Monday, demanding a deal. Smaller protests took place across the country.
About 100 prisoners were released during a week-long hostage exchange with Palestinian prisoners in November. Three of the men reported dead Monday had female relatives released in the exchange.
Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said the four hostages were killed while they were together during the army’s operation in Khan Younis, southern Gaza. He said the four were killed months ago, but that recent operations had allowed the military to gather enough information to confirm the deaths.
Their bodies are still held by Hamas and the cause of death was not immediately known. Hamas said in May that the other hostage reported dead, Nadav Popplewell, had died after being wounded in an Israeli airstrike, but provided no evidence. Popplewell was in his 50s.
“We are checking all options. There are a lot of questions,” Hagari said.
Cooper, Metzger and Peri were all 80 or older. They appeared in a video released in December by Hamas with the title “Don’t let us grow old here.” In the video, the three men appear gaunt and wear thin white T-shirts.
“We are the generation that built the foundations of the State of Israel,” Peri said, noting that all of the men had chronic illnesses. “We don’t understand why we were abandoned here.”
Cooper was an economist and one of the founders of Kibbutz Nir Oz, according to the hostage forum. 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 Gaza border during the Hamas attack on October 7, when Palestinian militants stormed Israel, killing about 1,200 people and returning about 250 hostages to Gaza.
The news came late Monday following an announcement made earlier in the day that the body of an alleged hostage, Dolev Yehud, 35, had been found in a community near the Gaza border that Hamas militants had attacked on October 7. Dozens of hostages were held in Gaza until Monday, when the military announced the discovery of his body and said he had been killed in the initial attack.
Israeli bombings and ground operations in Gaza have killed more than 36,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which makes no distinction between fighters and civilians.
Israel has expanded its offensive into the southern city of Rafah, once the main center of humanitarian aid operations. Israel’s invasion of Rafah has largely cut off the flow of food, medicine and other supplies to Palestinians suffering from widespread hunger.

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