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Israel army says it has seized bodies of three hostages

Shani Louk was kidnapped at a music festival when Hamas launched a surprise attack.

Shani Louk was kidnapped at a music festival when Hamas launched a surprise attack. Photo: Getty

Israeli forces have rescued the bodies of three hostages from the Gaza Strip, chief military spokesman Daniel Hagari says.

Hagari identified the three as Shani Louk, Amit Buskila and Yitzhak Gelernter, who he said “were murdered by Hamas while escaping the Nova music festival on October 7 and their bodies were taken into Gaza”.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the military operation on Friday and reiterated a pledge to return all the hostages.

“We will bring back all our hostages, whether they are alive or dead,” he said in a statement.

Hamas led a surprise attack on southern Israeli bases and communities on October 7, in which 1200 people were killed and 250 taken hostage, according to Israeli tallies.

About 130 hostages remain held in Gaza.

Israel has since launched an air, ground and sea assault on the blockaded Palestinian territory, killing more than 35,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health authorities.

The bombardment has displaced most of Gaza’s 2.3 million population, laid waste to the coastal enclave and caused a deep humanitarian crisis.

Israeli forces battled Hamas fighters in the narrow alleyways of Jabalia in northern Gaza on Friday in some of the fiercest engagements since they returned to the area a week ago, while in the south militants attacked tanks massing around Rafah.

Residents said Israeli armour had thrust as far as the market at the heart of Jabalia, the largest of Gaza’s eight historical refugee camps, and that bulldozers were demolishing homes and shops in the path of the advance.

“Tanks and planes are wiping out residential districts and markets, shops, restaurants, everything. It is all happening before the one-eyed world,” Ayman Rajab, a resident of western Jabalia, said via a chat app.

Israel had said its forces had cleared Jabalia months earlier in the Gaza war but said last week it was returning to prevent the group re-grouping there.

At the southern end of Gaza, thick smoke rose over Rafah, bordering Egypt, where an escalating Israeli assault has sent hundreds of thousands of people fleeing from what was one of the only places of refuge left.

“People are terrified and they’re trying to get away,” Jens Laerke, the United Nations humanitarian office spokesman said in Geneva, adding that most were following orders to move north towards the coast but that there were no safe routes or destinations.

As the fighting raged, the US military said trucks had started moving aid ashore from a temporary pier built off the coast, the first to reach the besieged enclave by sea in weeks.

The UN said it was finalising plans to distribute the aid, while reiterating that truck convoys by land – disrupted this month by the assault on Rafah – were the most efficient way of getting aid in.

“To stave off the horrors of famine, we must use the fastest and most obvious route to reach the people of Gaza – and for that, we need access by land now,” deputy UN spokesman Farhan Haq said.

Jabalia resident Rajab, a father-of-four, said food aid was not the answer: “We want this war to end and then we can manage our lives on our own,” he said.

The Israeli Defence Forces said troops had killed more than 60 militants in recent days and located a weapons warehouse close to a shelter complex in what it described as a “divisional-level offensive” in Jabalia.

Topics: Gaza, Hamas
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