Israel declares hostages Nadav Popplewell, Amiram Cooper, Yoram Metzger and Chaim Peri have died in Gaza

Israel declares hostages Nadav Popplewell, Amiram Cooper, Yoram Metzger and Chaim Peri have died in Gaza
  • PublishedJune 4, 2024

Four more hostages kidnapped on October 7 have been declared dead by the Israeli military — including three men seen in a Hamas video begging to be released.

The announcement on Monday, local time, heightens pressure on the Israeli government to agree to a United States ceasefire proposal that could secure the return of the hostages still held in Gaza and end the eight-month war.

About 80 hostages are believed to be alive in Gaza, alongside the remains of 43 others.

Since the Biden administration announced the ceasefire proposal on Friday, Israel has seen some of its largest protests calling on the government to bring hostages home.

Israeli leadership has appeared to brush aside US President Joe Biden’s proposal, vowing to keep conducting military operations against Hamas until the militant group is destroyed.

Headshot of balding man wearing glasses
Amiram Cooper, 84.(AP: Hostages Families Forum Headquarters)

All four of the men declared dead on Monday night — Nadav Popplewell, 51, Amiram Cooper, 84, Yoram Metzger, 80, and Chaim Peri, 80 — were kidnapped and taken into Gaza still alive, according to the Hostages Forum, a grassroots group representing the families of the hostages.

“It is time to end this cycle of sacrifice and neglect,” the group wrote in a statement following the announcement.

“Their murder in captivity is a mark of disgrace and a sad reflection on the significance of delaying previous deals.”

The group called on the government to immediately approve the new ceasefire plan.

Headshot of grey-haired man wearing beard and glasses
Yoram Metzger, 80.

About 100 captives were released during a week-long exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners in November.

Three of the men declared dead on Monday had female relatives who were released during the exchange.

Israel’s military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said the four hostages were killed while they were together, during the army’s operation in Khan Younis in central Gaza. 

Headshot of balding man with a moustache
Chaim Peri, 80.(AP: Hostages Families Forum)

He said the four were killed months ago, but that recent operations allowed the military to gather enough intelligence to pronounce them dead. 

Their bodies are still being held by Hamas.

“We are checking all of the options. There are a lot of questions,” he said.

Three hostages appeared in video

Mr Cooper, Mr Metzger and Mr Peri were all 80 or older. 

They appeared in a video in December released by Hamas under the title, “Don’t let us grow old here”. 

In the video, the three men appear gaunt, wearing thin white T-shirts.

“We are the generation who built the foundation for the state of Israel,” Haim Peri says, noting that all the men have chronic illnesses. “We do not understand why we have been abandoned here.”

Hamas claimed in May that the other hostage pronounced deceased, Nadav Popplewell, died after being wounded in an Israeli air strike, but provided no evidence.

Headshot of a balding man wearing a beard and glasses
Nadav Popplewell, 51.(AP: Hostages Families Forum Headquarters)

Mr Cooper was an economist and one of the founders of kibbutz Nir Oz, according to the hostages forum. 

Mr Metzger helped found the kibbutz winery and Mr Peri built the community’s art gallery and sculpture garden.

Nir Oz was among the hardest-hit towns near the border with Gaza during the Hamas attack on October 7, when Palestinian militants stormed Israel, killing some 1,200 people and hauling around 250 hostages back to Gaza.

The military said on Monday that the decision to pronounce the four men dead was based on intelligence and confirmed by health officials and Israel’s chief rabbi.

‘Make this deal happen’

Avner and Maya Goren were among those killed at Nir Oz, with Maya’s body believed to be in Gaza. 

“Each day we are passing through is another risk to our hostages.”

Their nephew, Amir Alfassa, said it was hard to grieve while hostages remained trapped in the enclave. 

“We can only say that each day we are passing through is another risk to our hostages,” he told ABC News Channel. 

“We really want everyone that can apply pressure on Hamas to accept this deal and we, in Israel also, want our government to make this deal happen.”

Body found near Gaza border

The news came after an announcement earlier in the day that the body of a presumed hostage, Dolev Yehud, 35, was found in a community near the Gaza border that Hamas militants had attacked on October 7. 

Mr Yehud was thought to be among scores of hostages 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 bombardments and ground operations in Gaza have killed more than 36,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Israel has been expanding its offensive in the southern city of Rafah, once the main hub of humanitarian aid operations. The Israeli invasion of Rafah has largely cut off the flow of food, medicine and other supplies to Palestinians facing widespread hunger.

‘We reserve the right to return to war’: Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told his hardline governing partners that a ceasefire proposal pushed by Mr Biden would meet the goal of destroying Hamas, or else Israel would return to war, according to local media.

Mr Netanyahu has faced a backlash from ultranationalists in his coalition who have threatened to bring down his government if he agrees to a deal that would end the war in Gaza without eliminating Hamas.

Mr Biden last week announced what he called an Israeli offer that includes an “enduring ceasefire” and Israeli withdrawal from Gaza if Hamas releases all hostages it is holding. 

Mr Netanyahu said that in the Biden plan, there were built-in measures to ensure all sides were upholding the deal before it progressed to the next stage.

“We reserve the right to return to war,” Mr Netanyahu told the committee, according to the media reports.

The Group of Seven industrialised nations has fully endorsed the ceasefire proposal and has called on Hamas to accept it.

In a statement released by the Italian presidency on Monday, the G7 urged countries with influence over Hamas to ensure that it accepts the deal.

Five key Arab nations also said they supported efforts to negotiate a permanent ceasefire. 

The foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates held a virtual meeting on Monday. 

In a statement from Jordan, they emphasised “dealing seriously and positively” with Mr Biden’s proposal.


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