Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The Israeli military said on Friday that it had retrieved the bodies of two 19-year-old soldiers and a 28-year-old event planner who were kidnapped during the Hamas-led attacks on Oct. 7 and held captive in Gaza.

The hostages were identified as Cpl. Nik Beiser, 19; Sgt. Ron Sherman, 19; and Elia Toledano, 28, who was a dual citizen of Israel and France. Medical officials, military rabbis and forensic experts carried out the identification procedure, according to the military. The military did not give details about how the three men died or where their remains were found.

“Our heart was murdered in Gaza,” Mr. Beiser’s mother, Katy Beiser, wrote in Hebrew on Facebook. “We won’t forget your smile.”

The two soldiers were taken hostage while serving in a base run by COGAT, Israel’s military body that oversees policy for the Palestinian territories. Mr. Toledano was kidnapped while attending the Tribe of Nova music festival in the Negev Desert, where Palestinian gunmen killed hundreds of people, the Times of Israel reported.

“We share in the family’s grief,” the military said in a statement, adding that its mission was “to locate the missing and return all the abductees home.”

According a The Times of Israel interview with Mr. Beiser’s mother, he was not supposed to be working on the weekend he was kidnapped, as he had switched shifts with a friend.

She last heard from him the morning of Oct. 7, when he tried to calm her down after she called him. He told her not to worry before his phone disconnected. Later that afternoon, she saw her son in a video posted online by Hamas.

Mr. Sherman’s father, Alex Sherman, said that his son was a very social person — “a magnet to everyone around him” — who enjoyed playing soccer with his friends in the military. He also was asthmatic, he said, and used an inhaler. His last telephone conversation with him was the morning of Oct. 7.

“He sounded very frightened and was describing what he could hear, minute after minute, then he said there were terrorists in the base,” he said in a video message posted by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, a group of families of hostages held in Gaza.

Before Mr. Sherman lost touch with his family at 7:12 a.m., he wrote in a text: “That’s it, they’re by the door. This is the end, I’m a goner, I love you,” along with red hearts.

His father said that a video of Mr. Sherman with two other soldiers was posted by Hamas four or five hours after their phone call. The family have any news about Sergeant Sherman after that, his father said in a video posted by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum in mid-November.

President Emmanuel Macron of France confirmed the death of Mr. Toledano, who had French citizenship, on social media. No other details about Mr. Toledano’s death were immediately available.

“Our compatriot Elia Toledano was taken on Oct. 7 by Hamas,” Mr. Macron wrote. “Deep sadness this morning of his death in Gaza. I share in the shock and sorrow of his family.”

Ephrat Livni contributed reporting.

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