Israel says it has recovered the body of Elad Katzir, an October 7 hostage

The Israeli army said Saturday it had recovered the body of a man taken hostage from one of the worst-hit communities during the Hamas-led attack on October 7, nearly six months after his abduction.

The man, Elad Katzir, 47, was killed by his captors in mid-January while being held in Gaza by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said at a news conference on Saturday. Mr. Hagari cited multiple intelligence sources but provided no details. The Israeli military's claim that Mr. Katzir had been killed by his captors could not be independently verified.

Mr. Katzir had lived in Nir Oz, a kibbutz near the border with the Gaza Strip. According to the Israeli army, more than a quarter of more than 400 residents were killed or kidnapped in the attack, including Katzir's father, Avraham, who was killed, and his mother, Hanna, who was also taken hostage.

Hanna Katzir was released in November as part of a brief ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas in which more than 100 hostages were returned. The return of Ms. Katzir, 76, surprised some members of her family because the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an Iranian-backed militant group, had previously said she was dead.

The families of more than 130 hostages held in Gaza have expressed growing anger and desperation, saying the Israeli government is not doing enough to reach a deal for their release. On Saturday, Mr. Katzir's sister, Carmit Katzir, denounced the Israeli government for failing to reach a deal in time to secure her brother's release.

“He could have been saved if there had been a deal in time,” he wrote of his brother on Facebook. “But our leadership is cowardly, motivated by political considerations, and therefore this did not happen.”

According to Israeli authorities, around 100 hostages are still held by Palestinian militants in the enclave; More than 30 others are presumed dead.

The Israeli army said Mr Katzir's body was recovered by troops in Khan Younis, a town in southern Gaza where the Israeli army has been operating since December. Around 8pm on Friday evening, Israeli forces arrived in southern Khan Younis, cordoned off the area and dug up his body from where it had been buried underground, the military officer said.

Forensic pathologists in Israel confirmed his identity and officials then notified his family, the military said. Mr. Hagari, the Israeli military spokesman, told reporters that he had spoken to Mr. Katzir's sister after she posted on Facebook expressing his condolences and her understanding of the urgency of the hostage situation.

Islamic Jihad had released at least two videos of Mr. Katzir, a farmer born in Nir Oz. He was last seen in a video released in early January, in which he said he had been held for more than 90 days and described hearing on the radio the death of a close friend of Nir Oz.

In recent weeks, Israel and Hamas have resumed indirect negotiations on a possible ceasefire and the release of at least some hostages. Hamas said in a statement on Telegram on Saturday that a delegation of its leadership would travel to Cairo on Sunday for further negotiations.

On Friday, President Biden sent messages to the leaders of Egypt and Qatar – who act as intermediaries between Hamas and Israel – urging them to increase pressure on Hamas to reach a deal. He pushed the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to do the same.

Israeli leaders have insisted that continued “military pressure” on Hamas will force the group to come to the table. The families of many of the hostages, fearing that their loved ones could be killed by their captors or by Israeli fire, called for more immediate action.

“Your story shouldn't have ended like this,” Ms. Katzir wrote of her brother on Facebook on Saturday. “I'm sorry we couldn't save you,” she wrote, adding, “I love you forever.”

Efrat Livni contributed to the reporting.

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