IDF retrieves bodies of two hostages from Gaza: Eden Zacharia and Ziv Dado

Zacharia, 27, was at rave; Dado, 36, was IDF logistics supervisor; 2 soldiers killed in recent days, including Gadi Eisenkot’s son Gal, died during operation to recover bodies

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

Eden Zacharia and IDF Warrant Officer Ziv Dado. (Courtesy/IDF)
Eden Zacharia and IDF Warrant Officer Ziv Dado. (Courtesy/IDF)

The Israel Defense Forces announced Tuesday that it had recovered the bodies of civilian Eden Zacharia and IDF Warrant Officer Ziv Dado, who were taken hostage by Hamas on October 7.

The operation to recover the bodies from the Gaza Strip was carried out by the Military Intelligence Directorate’s Unit 504, and the 551st Brigade. They were found in a tunnel deep in the enclave, near the home of Ahmed Ghandour, the former commander of Hamas’s northern Gaza Brigade, who was recently killed in an Israeli strike.

Zacharia, 27, was taken hostage from the Supernova rave near Re’im, It was not immediately clear whether she had died during the attack or at a later date. Dado, 36, a logistics supervisor in the Golani Brigade’s 51st Battalion, was killed during the October 7 onslaught. He already had a funeral held on October 25, having been declared a “fallen soldier held by a terror group.”

After their bodies were brought back to Israel and identified by medical and rabbinical authorities, their families were notified.

During the operation to recover the bodies, Master Sgt. (res.) Gal Meir Eisenkot — the son of war cabinet minister Gadi Eisenkot — and Master Sgt. (res.) Eyal Meir Berkowitz were killed, and other soldiers were wounded.

“Eden my love, may your memory be a blessing,” Zacharia’s mother Orin Ganz-Zach wrote on Facebook.

Gal Eisenkot (L) with his father, then-IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot. (Courtesy)

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum extended its condolences to Zacharia’s family in an online statement.

“Eden Zacharia (28) was filled with joy for life and loved to spend time at parties. She went to the Re’im party with her partner, Ofek Kimchi (23), who was murdered there,” the organization said. “At the time of the shooting, she spoke to her father on the phone and told him about the situation, and it is also known that she was kidnapped while wounded in the upper body.”

Israeli troops bring the bodies of Eden Zacharia and First Sgt. Ziv Dado back to Israel from the Gaza Strip, in an image published December 12, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant revealed Tuesday that Israeli troops were “operating deep underground” in Gaza, in a statement following an assessment with the 162nd Division and shortly after the return of the bodies was announced.

“These operations are also being carried out above ground, but there is also a deep descent into the depths, to find bunkers, war rooms, communication centers, ammunition depots and meeting rooms,” Gallant said.

“We will see these things in footage in the coming days,” he added.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (left) meets with the commander of the 162nd Division, Brig. Gen. Itzik Cohen, at an army base in southern Israel, December 12, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Gallant also said the brothers of Ghandour were being interrogated by Israel.

“They are already telling us a large part of the stories of the murders of October 7, and other things,” he said.

“We are deepening the achievement, [Hamas in] Gaza City is breaking, and soon we will eliminate the entire Hamas infrastructure in Gaza City,” Gallant vowed.

War erupted after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing over 240 hostages of all ages under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities.

It is believed that 135 hostages remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November. Four hostages were released prior to that, and one was rescued by troops. The Israel Defense Forces has confirmed the deaths of 18 of those still held by Hamas, due to new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.

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