IDF: Katzir, abducted from Nir Oz, likely murdered in January

IDF commandos retrieve body of hostage Elad Katzir, murdered in Islamic Jihad captivity

Sister slams ‘cowardly’ government for failing to reach a hostage release deal in time to save Elad, who twice was shown alive in terror group propaganda videos

An undated photo of Elad Katzir before he was kidnapped by terrorists on October 7, 2023. His body was extracted from Gaza in an IDF raid on April 5, 2024 after he was murdered in captivity by Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists. (Facebook)
An undated photo of Elad Katzir before he was kidnapped by terrorists on October 7, 2023. His body was extracted from Gaza in an IDF raid on April 5, 2024 after he was murdered in captivity by Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists. (Facebook)

Israeli commandos recovered the body of hostage Elad Katzir, held by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces and his family said Saturday, months after he was shown alive in two propaganda videos by the terror group.

The IDF said that according to its intelligence, Katzir, 47, was “murdered in captivity by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group.”

The operation to retrieve the body was carried out by the Commando Brigade, following intelligence provided by the Shin Bet security agency and the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate.

“Following an identification procedure carried out overnight by medical officials at the National Center of Forensic Medicine, IDF and Shin Bet representatives informed the family of the late Elad Katzir about the recovery of his body,” the military said.

The IDF and Shin Bet say they “express their deepest condolences to the family.”

Katzir was among 253 people abducted by Hamas-led terrorists during the October 7 onslaught. Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives took him from his home in Kibbutz Nir Oz along with his parents.

In December, Islamic Jihad published a propaganda video showing Katzir and another hostage, Gadi Mozes, alive. A second video with Katzir was published in early January.

Hostages Gadi Mozes (L) and Elad Katzir in a video published by Palestinian Islamic Jihad on December 19, 2023. (Screen capture/X)

Seemingly speaking under duress, the pair are heard in separate clips warning they could die at any moment due to IDF strikes in Gaza.

There was no immediate comment on the Telegram channel used by Islamic Jihad during the war.

The IDF estimated that Katzir was murdered by his captors in mid-January, not long after the publication of the second video.

Katzir, after being killed, was buried in the Khan Younis refugee camp in southern Gaza, at a site used by terror operatives. Information on the grave was obtained around a week ago, with final confirmation on the location received on Friday night.

Within a few hours, troops of the Maglan and Egoz commando units reached the site, exhumed the body, and brought the body back to Israel for identification. There were no injuries amid the operation, with no fighting taking place at the grave site itself, only in the surrounding area.

He could have been saved

Shortly before the IDF announcement, Katzir’s sister posted that her brother’s body had been recovered.  In an angry post, she blamed the government for failing to secure a hostage release deal in time to save him.

Carmit Palty Katzir wrote on Facebook that her family had been notified that his body was extracted from the Gaza Strip and will be buried in Kibbutz Nir Oz.

“Elad was brought to Israel last night, after being murdered in captivity,” she wrote, adding that the IDF spokesperson would announce the “brave rescue operation.”

“The IDF spokesman will not tell you that the prime minister, the cabinet and the IDF have no idea where most of the hostages, alive and murdered, are held. He won’t tell you either that they have no way to protect the hostages, even when they know where they are,” she added in the post, claiming that her brother “could have been saved if a deal would have happened on time.”

Addressing the “cowardly” government, she says, “Look at yourselves in the mirror and see if your hands didn’t spill that blood. You have 133 more hostages to redeem, worlds to save.”

Carmit Palty Katzir holds a poster of her brother Elad as relatives and friends of hostages sit on a street outside the private residence of the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Caesarea, Jan. 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Meanwhile, indirect talks between Israel and Hamas to reach a new deal are ongoing in Egypt but have become mired down amid mutual recriminations.

Elad’s parents Hanna and Avraham ‘Rami’ Katzir were in their sealed room when Hamas terrorists attacked the community. Hours later, the family learned that their father, Rami, was murdered in the sealed room and Hanna was missing.

Elad, who was the main caretaker for his parents, managed to tell his sister Carmit that terrorists had entered his home during their last conversation.

Elad was a farmer and social activist who volunteers for the Hadar Foundation, showing up each week to support the fight for the release of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, two soldiers whose bodies are held in Gaza.

He was known by his friends and family as a man of the land, who during tense security times and attacks from Gaza, would insist on working the kibbutz lands closest to the border with Gaza.

His friends quoted him in social media posts, “This is our land, and this is the food we grow.”

In January 2009, Elad was interviewed by The New York Times, following an Israeli offensive in Gaza, and said he was nervous about sniper fire from the other side of the border.

“I do not feel any victory,” he told The New York Times. “I still do not feel safe.”

Hanna Katzir was released on November 24 as part of a temporary ceasefire deal brokered by Qatar and the United States between Hamas and Israel. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad had falsely announced Katzir’s death, allegedly in an IDF attack, days before her release.

An undated photo of Elad Katzir before he was kidnapped by terrorists on October 7, 2023. His body was extracted from Gaza in an IDF raid on April 5, 2024 after he was murdered in captivity by Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists. (Facebook)

Hanna’s health was in serious condition after being held hostage in Gaza. She has developed heart problems due to the harsh conditions and starvation, said daughter Carmit.

Once back home in Israel, Hanna Katzir learned that her husband, Rami, was murdered on October 7 and their son, Elad, is still being held by Hamas in Gaza.

It is now believed that 129 hostages abducted by Hamas and other terror groups on October 7 remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November, and four hostages were released prior to that.

Three hostages have been rescued by troops alive, and the bodies of 12 hostages have also been recovered, including three mistakenly killed by the military. The IDF has confirmed the deaths of 34 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza. One more person is listed as missing since October 7, and their fate is still unknown.

Hamas is also holding the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Shaul and Goldin since 2014, as well as two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are both thought to be alive after entering the Strip of their own accord in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

Reuters contributed to this report

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