Israel army says recovered bodies of three Gaza hostages

The army said it retrieved the bodies of three hostages during a night-time operation in and around Jabalia.

The Israeli military said Friday its forces had retrieved the bodies of three hostages in an overnight operation in the northern Gaza Strip’s Jabalia.

The remains of Israeli hostage Chanan Yablonka, Brazilian-Israeli Michel Nisenbaum and French-Mexican Orion Hernandez Radoux “were rescued” and their families had been notified after forensic identification, the military said in a statement.

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“Based on verified intelligence in our possession, the hostages were murdered during the October 7 massacre”, it said.

Yablonka, 42, and Hernandez Radoux, 32, were abducted from a music festival when Palestinian militants stormed southern Israel from Gaza on October 7, triggering the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

Nisenbaum, a 59-year-old from the Israeli city of Sderot near Gaza, was last contacted on his way to an army base on the border to pick up his granddaughter on the day of the attack.

He had been on the phone with family members when the line was cut. A person speaking Arabic then answered a call from one of his daughters.

Avivit Yablonka, the 48-year-old sister of Chanan, told AFP on Tuesday she “feared bad news” since the bodies of other hostages were returned last week.

A divorced father of two, according to Avivit, Yablonka had decided to go to the festival with four friends at the last minute. They had tried to escape the attack in a car.

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The bodies of his four friends -– including former Israeli international footballer Lior Assouline -– were found and identified near the vehicle.

Hernandez Radoux was the boyfriend of 22-year-old Israeli-German Shani Louk, who was filmed on October 7 lying face down in the back of a pick-up truck filled with gunmen.

The Israeli army announced Monday it had found her body in Jabalia last week.

– ‘Solidarity’ –

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, under increasing domestic pressure to secure the release of remaining hostages, said in a statement Friday that “together with the Israeli people, my wife Sara and I bow our heads in deep sorrow and embrace the grieving families in their difficult time”.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog said on social media platform X that “our broken hearts go out to the Yablonka, Hernandez and Nisenbaum families” after the news that their bodies had been recovered.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the deaths were “very regrettable” and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva expressed “immense sadness”.

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French President Emmanuel Macron also expressed “immense sadness”, vowing on X that his government would keep working “for the liberation of all hostages”.

Out of the 252 people taken hostage on October 7, 121 hostages remain inside the Gaza Strip, including 37 the army says are dead.

The attack resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed at least 35,800 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to data provided by the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

Since early May the Israeli military has been engaged in renewed street battles in northern and central Gaza.

Last Friday, the army told AFP that the fighting in the northern town of Jabalia was “perhaps the fiercest” in over seven months of war.

© Agence France-Presse