IDF recovers hostage’s body from Gaza one day after retrieving three others

The Israeli military announced Saturday that it had recovered the body of a hostage from the Gaza Strip, one day after saying it had retrieved the remains of three others in the besieged territory.

The hostage was identified as Ron Benjamin, who was killed on October 7 at the Mefalsim intersection during the Hamas attack, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said in a news conference. Benjamin’s body was abducted by Hamas and taken to Gaza, he added.

The three previous hostages were identified as Shani Louk, Amit Bouskila, and Itshak Gelernter, Hagari said in a press conference in Tel Aviv on Friday. All three were taken hostage on October 7 and were killed while escaping the Nova music festival and their bodies taken into Gaza, the IDF said.

“They were celebrating life in the Nova music festival and they were murdered by Hamas,” he said.

The bodies were identified by authorities and the families have been informed, Hagari said, adding that the bodies had been transferred to medical professionals for forensic examination.

Hagari did not disclose where the bodies were found during the press conference. He said the bodies were recovered during a joint IDF and Shin Bet operation.

CNN analyst and Axios reporter Barak Ravid, citing an IDF spokesperson, reported the bodies were found in a tunnel in Gaza.

Nissim Louk, father of Shani Louk whose body was one of those recovered also told Israeli media his daughter’s body was very well preserved because it had been kept in a “deep and very cold tunnel”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his grief in a post on X on Friday. “The heart breaks for the great loss. My wife Sara and I grieve with the families. All our hearts are with them in this hour of grieving,” he said.

“We will return all our hostages, the dead and the alive alike. I congratulate our brave forces who, with determined action, have returned our sons and daughters home,” he added.

Of the three hostages, only Louk had previously been confirmed dead by the Israeli government.

The 23-year-old German-Israeli woman was declared dead by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs in late October. A source involved with her identification told CNN Louk’s death was announced after forensic examiners found a bone fragment from her skull.

Her lifeless body was seen on video on the back of a Hamas truck after the music festival attack.

Louk’s family said they feel some closure now that her body has been recovered. In a statement given to CNN, the family said the IDF came to their house on Friday and informed them that they were able to rescue Louk’s body from a tunnel in Gaza and bring her back to Israel.

“Every news like this brings us back to the horrific moment we had to find out that our loving daughter was brutally murdered by Hamas on the 7th of October. However, it is also a relief to get the body back and we are now able to bury her close by. It gives us some kind of closure,” the family said.

“We want to remember Shani as the beautiful and peace-loving person she was, who loved music, dancing and life. She brought us and many other people in the world light and the belief in good. This is how we choose to remember Shani,” the statement added.

Around 240 people were taken hostage and moved to Gaza during Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel which also killed more than 1,200 people. In the seven months since that attack, Israel has launched a war in Gaza that has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

A little more than 100 hostages were freed during a release deal in November, but the IDF believes there are still 132 hostages being held in Gaza, 128 of whom were taken on October 7.

The IDF believed that of those 132 hostages, 40 are believed to be dead, including two who were taken in 2014.

A deal to secure the release of the remaining hostages has remained elusive for months, despite rounds of talks between Israeli and Hamas negotiating teams.

Last Friday, Hamas militants said Israel’s rejection of a ceasefire plan submitted by mediators at negotiations in Cairo had sent hostage release talks back to “square one.”

The statement came a day after the latest round of Gaza truce and hostage deal talks ended in Cairo, without a deal.

The militant group also accused Netanyahu of hindering the ceasefire talks, so as to use negotiations as a cover to attack the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

CNN’s Eliza Talmadge contributed to this report.

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