IDF: Officer Daniel Perez was killed in fighting on Oct. 7, body held by Hamas in Gaza

Military chief rabbi declares death of South African-born tank commander based on findings and new intelligence information, allowing funeral to be held

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Daniel Perez was killed and taken hostage by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023, from near Kibbutz Nahal Oz. (Israel Defense Forces)
Daniel Perez was killed and taken hostage by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023, from near Kibbutz Nahal Oz. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces announced on Sunday the death of soldier Cpt. Daniel Perez, 22, who was killed and abducted by Hamas on October 7, as the war against the terror group raged for its 163rd day.

Perez, from Yad Binyamin, served as a platoon commander in the 7th Armored Brigade’s 77th Battalion. His body was taken from the Gaza border, following a battle with terrorists during the Hamas onslaught.

Until now, he was listed as one of the 253 hostages abducted by the terror group on October 7. Recently, the army’s chief rabbi declared Perez’s death based on findings and new intelligence information.

The findings allow Perez’s family to hold a funeral in accord with Jewish law and they can sit shiva, the traditional Jewish week-long mourning period, though his body remains held by Hamas in Gaza.

Born in South Africa, Perez’s family moved to Israel when he was 13 years old. His brother, Yonatan Perez, was shot and wounded by Hamas on October 7 while stationed near Gaza. Yonatan recovered from his wounds and decided to go ahead with his wedding just two weeks later, despite waiting to hear the fate of his brother.

His father, Rabbi Doron Perez, serves as the executive chairman of the World Mizrachi Movement. In a statement, Rabbi Danny Mirvis, the acting CEO of World Mizrachi, said that “over the past 163 days, we have desperately davened [prayed] for better news. Throughout that time, the Perez family has inspired us and strengthened us as we have sought to strengthen them. The global tefillot [prayers] for his well-being will now become global wishes of comfort.”

Palestinian terrorists take control of an Israeli tank after crossing the border fence with Israel from Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on October 7, 2023. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

It is believed that 130 hostages abducted by Hamas 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 alive by troops, and the bodies of 11 hostages have also been recovered, including three mistakenly killed by the military.

The IDF has now confirmed the deaths of 33 of those still held by Hamas — including Perez — citing intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza. One more person is listed as missing since October 7, and her fate is still unknown, though her family believes she was killed.

Hamas has also been holding the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar 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.

Last week, the IDF announced the death of a soldier killed during fighting in the Gaza Strip, bringing the toll of slain troops in the ground offensive against Hamas to 249.

In all, 592 Israeli soldiers and reservists have been killed in the war, more than half of them during the October 7 onslaught.

The war began on October 7 when thousands of Hamas terrorists attacked southern Israel under a barrage of rockets fired at population centers all over the country. They brutally killed 1,200 people during cases of torture and rape and seized 253 hostages. Israel swiftly declared war on Hamas, vowing to topple the terror group’s regime in Gaza and free the hostages.

The Israel Defense Forces has since overrun most of the Palestinian enclave alongside intense airstrikes in a campaign that has killed over 31,000 people, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. These numbers cannot be independently verified and are believed to include over 13,000 terror operatives who were killed in battle as well as Gazans who were killed by terror groups’ misfired rockets. The IDF also killed more than 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on and immediately after October 7.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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