Israel recovers bodies of three hostages, including Shani Louk


The Israeli military says it has retrieved the bodies of three Israeli hostages from Gaza including Shani Louk, the 23-year-old German Israeli, who was pronounced dead last year.

In a joint operation between the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and the Shin Bet security agency, the bodies were recovered from an undisclosed location in Gaza on Friday, Daniel Hagari, the IDF spokesman, said.

Shani Louk, Amit Buskila, 28, and Itzak Gelerenter, 57, were abducted along with 200 others by Hamas from a music festival in the Negev desert on Oct 7.

The military believes the three ran away together from the party site to a nearby road junction where they were killed by Hamas gunmen and their bodies taken into Gaza.

Until Friday’s announcement, Buskila and Gelerenter’s relatives believed their loved ones were still alive as they had not received an update from the IDF suggesting otherwise.

Louk’s family were told at the end of October that she had died after a bone from the base of her skull was recovered and identified. The family were told the injury she suffered was too severe to be survivable.

The German-Israeli tattoo artist became one of the most recognisable faces of the Oct 7 massacre when footage circulated online, showing the young woman lying unconscious and half-naked in the back of a pick-up truck in Gaza surrounded by jeering attackers.

Louk was identified in the video by her trademark tattoos and dreadlock hairstyle.

Her father said on Friday, the news of her body being recovered and returned to Israel brought him closure.

“We are devastated and grieving but there is relief,” Mr Nissim told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

“She brings light to us, both in her life and death.”

‘We will return all our hostages’

The IDF broke the news to the family earlier on Friday, he told local TV: “I asked to see pictures, and I saw a picture of her – she looks perfect as if she were alive.”

The IDF did not say where the bodies were found but Israeli troops were operating this morning in Rafah in the south and Jabaliya in the north of Gaza.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said in a statement on Friday he was “heartbroken” by the news.

“I congratulate our brave forces who, with determined action, returned our sons and daughters home,” he said.

“We will return all of our hostages – living and deceased alike”.

The bodies were retrieved two weeks after hostage talks between Israel and Hamas broke down.

A group representing many families of the hostages on Friday urged the government to take steps to resume the negotiations: “The return of bodies is a painful and stark reminder that we must swiftly bring back all our brothers and sisters from their cruel captivity – the living to rehabilitation, and the murdered to a proper burial.”

Families have received proof of life from only a handful of hostages in Gaza so far, and many of those abducted into Gaza are feared to be dead. Hamas has admitted that some of the Israelis were captured by rival militias or civilians who poured into southern Israel and said it did not know the whereabouts of many of them.

During the last round of hostage talks with Israel, Hamas baulked at the suggestion of releasing 40 female, underage or wounded hostages, saying it did not have that many hostages in that category.

Hamas killed 1,200 people in its surprise attack on southern Israeli bases and communities on Oct. 7 and took some 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. Some 129 hostages remain captive in Gaza.

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