Home International Israeli troops recover slain Gaza hostage, Egypt to host new truce talks

Israeli troops recover slain Gaza hostage, Egypt to host new truce talks

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Israel said its special forces had recovered the body of a hostage killed while being held captive in Gaza, as the Palestinian enclave’s dominant Islamist movement Hamas said it would take part in a new round of ceasefire talks in Cairo.

A man cycles past posters with pictures of hostages kidnapped in the deadly October 7 attack on Israel by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas from Gaza, as the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues, in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 6, 2024. Picture: Reuters, Hannah McKay

By Dan Williams and Nidal Al-Mughrabi

JERUSALEM/CAIRO – Israel said on Saturday its special forces had recovered the body of a hostage killed while being held captive in Gaza, as the Palestinian enclave’s dominant Islamist movement Hamas said it would take part in a new round of ceasefire talks in Cairo.

Almost six months into the war, Israel has faced protests at home demanding a deal to free the dwindling number of live hostages from Hamas’ October 7 cross-border rampage. Western countries, meanwhile, have voiced outrage over what they see as an unacceptably high Palestinian civilian toll and the accompanying humanitarian crisis.

The body of Elad Katzir, a 47-year-old Israeli farmer, was unearthed by commandos in southern Khan Younis overnight, the military said. He had been killed by his Palestinian Islamic Jihad captors and buried there in mid-January, it said, citing intelligence information about which it declined to elaborate.

Islamic Jihad, an ally of Hamas, had no immediate comment.

Katzir was among 253 people dragged into Gaza by Hamas-led gunmen who killed some 1,200 others in southern Israel, according to official tallies, sparking an offensive that medics in the enclave say has killed more than 33,000 Palestinians.

His father Avraham was killed in their kibbutz, Nir Oz, and his mother Hanna was also taken hostage but freed in November under a truce.

Qatari and Egyptian mediators have been trying to secure another deal that might return some of the 129 remaining hostages in a longer ceasefire in Gaza.

The Gaza Health Ministry on Saturday reported one of the lowest daily death tolls in six months, saying 46 Palestinians had been killed in Israeli strikes over the past 24 hours.

The Gaza-based ministry does not distinguish between combatants and non-combatants in its reports but local health officials say most of the fatalities have been civilians. Israel says at least a third are fighters.

Hamas on Saturday said its fighters targeted three Israeli tanks in Khan Younis with missiles, inflicting casualties. There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military, though it said earlier that troops had engaged with gunmen in the area.

TALKS

The World Health Organisation said its team had managed to reach Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, where Israeli special forces conducted a two-week raid against suspected militants, leaving a wasteland of destroyed buildings.

The team saw at least five dead bodies at the complex, most of which had suffered extensive destruction. “Even restoring minimal functionality in the short term seems implausible,” said a statement from WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Al-Shifa, the Gaza Strip’s biggest hospital before the war, was one of the few health-care facilities that had been partially operational in the north of enclave before the raid.

Angered by an Israeli air strike that killed aid workers in Gaza, US President Joe Biden on Thursday urged an “immediate ceasefire” and for Israel to boost humanitarian relief measures.

Israel approved the reopening of the Erez crossing into northern Gaza and the temporary use of its Ashdod port following the US criticism, measures welcomed on Saturday by UN aid co-ordinator Jamie McGoldrick.

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid told N12’s Meet the Press on Saturday that he was travelling to Washington where he will meet US officials next week. The Biden administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether senior officials will meet Lapid.

Hamas said it would send a delegation to Cairo on Sunday for a new round of mediated talks. Israel was undecided on whether to attend, an Israeli official said, citing concern that the event would be “more political theatre than actual progress”.

Hamas wants any deal to bring about an end to the war and withdrawal of Israeli forces. Israel has said that, after any truce, it would topple Hamas, which is sworn to its destruction.

A rally in Jerusalem calling on leaders to secure a hostage release was set to take place on Sunday, which marks six months since the October 7 attack, and anti-government protesters in Tel Aviv on Saturday called for an election.

In a January 8 video posted by Islamic Jihad online, Katzir said: “I was close to dying more than once. It’s a miracle I’m still alive … I want to tell my family that I love them very much and I miss them very much.”

Based on various sources of information, Israel has declared at least 35 hostages as dead in Gaza captivity. Palestinian factions have said some were killed in Israeli strikes. While confirming this in several cases, Israel says that, in others, hostages whose bodies were recovered bore signs of execution.

– REUTERS

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