The Israeli army said on Tuesday that it had recovered during an operation in Gaza the bodies of two hostages taken by Hamas in its October 7 attack.
Following the bodies’ positive identification, authorities ‘informed the families of Eden Zakaria and Ziv Dado that their bodies had been recovered and returned to Israel,’ the army said in a statement.
Zakaria, 28, had travelled to the Nova festival with her boyfriend Ofek Kimchi, 23, who was killed in the attack which left more than 260 dead and saw dozens captured.
Dado, 36, served as a logistics supervisor in the Golani Brigade’s 51st Battalion and fell during the October 7 onslaught, but Israel considers those still held by Hamas to be hostages regardless of whether they are dead or alive.
Zakaria spoke to her father and asked him to look after their dogs in a final phone call while the festival was under fire.
Eden Zakaria, 28, had travelled to the Nova festival with her boyfriend Ofek Kimchi, 23, who was killed in the attack
Ziv Dado, 36, served as a logistics supervisor in the Golani Brigade’s 51st Battalion and fell during the October 7 onslaught
Israeli troops bring the bodies of Eden Zakaria and First Sgt. Ziv Dado back to Israel from the Gaza Strip, in an image published on December 12, 2023
She was escaping in a car with her boyfriend and friends when the terrorists began shooting at the vehicle, later abducting her, according to the Times of Israel.
Kimchi was murdered in the attack and Zakaria was kidnapped while she was suffering with injuries to the upper half of her body, according to a statement from Liat Bell Sommer, a spokeswoman for the Hostages and Missing Families Forum that has helped to coordinate relatives’ outreach effort.
Sommer said that Zakaria was ‘filled with joy for life and loved going to parties’.
She had two hunting dogs to whom she was deeply attached and had planned to study digital marketing.
Her family was notified on Tuesday that she was murdered while held captive by Hamas after being kidnapped from the party in Re’im.
Dado was married and the father of a five-month-old daughter, Sommer said, adding that he ‘loved helping others, especially underserved populations’.
The army said that during the operation to recover the bodies from the Gaza Strip, two soldiers ‘fell in battle and additional soldiers were injured’.
The operation was performed by the Military Intelligence Directorate’s Unit 504, and the 551st Brigade.
The IDF said: ‘After an identification procedure carried out by medical officials and military rabbis together with the Institute of Forensic Medicine and the Israel Police, today (Tuesday) IDF and Israel Police representatives informed the families of Eden Zakaria and (SGM) Ziv Dado, who were taken hostage by the Hamas terrorist organization on October 7th, that their bodies had been recovered and returned to Israel.’
The statement continued: ‘The IDF sends the families its heartfelt condolences and will continue to support them. During the operations that enabled the location of the bodies, IDF soldiers in reserve duty (MSG) Gal Meir Eisenkot and (MSG) Eyal Meir Berkowitz fell in battle and additional soldiers were injured.
Zakaria and her boyfriend Ofek Kimhi
Zakaria spoke to her father and asked him to look after their dogs in a final phone call while the festival was under fire
‘Our national mission is to locate the missing and return all the hostages home. We are working together with security agencies, and with all intelligence and operational means in order to return all of the hostages home.’
Israel declared 19 of 135 people still in Gaza captivity dead in absentia on Tuesday, after announcing its forces had recovered the bodies of two hostages.
Another hostage, Sahar Baruch, was confirmed dead last week after a failed army rescue attempt that left two soldiers wounded.
Under a one-week truce deal that ended on December 1, 105 hostages were released from Gaza, among them 80 Israelis – mostly women and children – freed in exchange for 240 Palestinians jailed by Israel.
Efforts to revive the deal have stalled, and Hamas warned on Sunday that no more hostages would leave Gaza alive unless its demands for more prisoner releases were met.
Israel pressed ahead on Tuesday with an offensive against Gaza’s Hamas rulers that it says could go on for weeks or months.
More than 17,700 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, around two thirds of them women and children, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-controlled territory.
About 90 per cent of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been displaced within the besieged territory, where UN agencies say there is no safe place to flee.
With only a trickle of humanitarian aid reaching a small portion of Gaza, residents face severe shortages of food, water and other basic goods.
Israel says 97 of its soldiers have died in its ground offensive after Hamas raided southern Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking about 240 hostages.
The UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to demand a humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza in a strong demonstration of global support for ending the Israel-Hamas war. The vote also shows the growing isolation of the United States and Israel.
The vote in the 193-member world body was 153 in favour, 10 against and 23 abstentions. The support was higher than for an October 27 resolution that called for a ‘humanitarian truce’ leading to a cessation of hostilities, where the vote was 120-14 with 45 abstentions.