Israeli soldiers have recovered the body of one of the hostages kidnapped during the Hamas-led attack on Israel last month from a building next to the Al-Shifa Hospital complex in Gaza City, the Israeli military said on Thursday night.
The body of Yehudit Weiss, 65, a resident of Be’eri, a kibbutz near the border with Gaza, was found by troops who in recent days have taken control of much of the hospital, the largest in the Gaza Strip, and were searching within and beneath it. Israeli officials say the hospital complex hosts major Hamas facilities, some in underground bunkers, a claim rejected by Hamas and hospital officials.
The military, in a statement announcing the recovery of her body, did not say how Ms. Weiss had died. Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, an Israeli military spokesman, told reporters that soldiers found weapons belonging to her captors near her remains.
“Yehudit was killed by terrorists in the Gaza Strip, and we didn’t manage to reach her in time,” he said.
A house at Be’eri kibbutz in Israel that was overrun by Hamas armed fighters on Oct. 7.Credit…Avishag Shaar-Yashuv for The New York Times
Israeli authorities said Hamas and other Palestinian groups took roughly 240 people hostage during the surprise attack on Oct. 7 that left around 1,200 dead in Israel. The ongoing hostage crisis — which involves dozens of dual nationals — has stunned the country and complicated Israel’s hopes of toppling Hamas in Gaza.
Hamas has released four Israeli hostages so far, and Israeli troops successfully rescued a 19-year-old Israeli soldier last month. Negotiations have reportedly advanced this week for the release of 50 hostages, in exchange for the release of Palestinians held in Israeli jails and a cessation of hostilities for several days.
Israeli troops transferred Ms. Weiss’s body to Israel for forensic testing by health officials, who confirmed her identity, the Israeli military said. Her husband, Shmulik Weiss, was killed in the Oct. 7 attack, Admiral Hagari said.
Their community, Be’eri, a close-knit kibbutz of approximately 1,000 residents, was devastated by the Hamas attack. At least 86 residents were killed in the assault, according to the kibbutz administration, while roughly 25 are missing, with many of those believed to have been kidnapped in Gaza.
In a video statement after her kidnapping, Ms. Weiss’s family said that she and Mr. Weiss ceased responding to messages after around 10:15 a.m. on Oct. 7. Both of their phones were later traced to Gaza, said their son Ohad.
“We had so much hope that Mom would come back,” another of their sons, Omer, told reporters on Thursday night, after learning of his mother’s death. “We wished for it and we hoped. Sadly, it was too late for us — but perhaps for the rest of the families, it’s not.”