Tel Aviv, Israel – The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced on Friday that troops operating in Gaza had recovered the bodies of two soldiers and one civilian hostage who were captured by Hamas militants on October 7th.
The soldiers were identified as Corporal Nik Beizer, 19, and Sergeant Ron Sherman, also 19 years old. The civilian hostage was named as Elia Toledano, a 28-year-old French-Israeli citizen.
Corporal Beizer had started his military service on April 30th and was taken captive along with others when Hamas fighters assaulted his base near the Erez Crossing on October 7th. Beizer was stationed at the IDF’s Gaza District Coordination and Liaison unit, which coordinates permits and goods transfers into Gaza through the Erez Crossing.
In a cruel twist of fate, Beizer was not originally scheduled to be at the base that weekend but had agreed to swap shifts with a friend. “Everyone at this base is taking care of the Palestinians, working so that Gazans can live their lives,” his grieving mother, Katy Beizer, said earlier.
Sergeant Sherman last spoke to his mother by phone on the morning of October 7th when Hamas terrorists attacked his army base. “They got cut off,” recalled his aunt Shalhev Kimchi in a video interview last month.
After Sherman’s phone call ended abruptly, he communicated by WhatsApp text, telling his mother he loved her before writing: “Mom, they’re here, it’s over, I love you.”
However, later that day, Hamas released videos showing Sherman unharmed but bound in the back of a pickup truck, possibly en route to captivity.
Civilian hostage Elia Toledano was attending the Supernova music festival near Kibbutz Re’im on October 7th when he was seized by Hamas gunmen who killed over 360 people at the event. After identifying his remains, Israeli authorities informed his family of his death but did not immediately disclose the cause.
In a statement, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said: “We share the grief of his family and loved ones. The release of all hostages is our priority.”
The IDF also announced two more military deaths on Thursday and Friday, bringing total Israeli casualties so far to 118 soldiers killed.
Among the latest dead was 19-year-old Sergeant Oz Shmuel Aradi, a combat engineer from the town of Hatzor. He was killed in action in southern Gaza on Thursday.
On Friday morning, 23-year-old Sergeant First Class (Res.) Shay Uriel Pizem, a tank commander from Ein HaNatziv, was also killed in battle.
In addition, IDF said four reservist troops suffered serious injuries across Gaza yesterday.
Military intelligence chief Major General Aharon Haliva, visiting Gaza on Friday, told soldiers that Israel “must continue to pressure the enemy; continue to kill the enemy; continue to destroy the enemy. The campaign has multiple theaters and has months to go.”
During his tour, General Haliva held an operational assessment with division and brigade commanders about Israel’s ongoing operations. “The maneuvering [military] machine, with its many parts – the air force, which is doing incredible work, the navy, the intelligence – is a fearsome military mechanism,” he remarked.
The current conflict was sparked by a co-ordinated surprise attack by thousands of Hamas fighters on October 7th which killed over 1,200 Israelis. Dubbed the “Gaza Invasion,” it was the deadliest terror attack in the country’s history.
During the onslaught, Hamas terrorists streamed across the Gaza border by land, air and sea, rampaging through southern Israeli communities and seizing around 240 hostages.
In retaliation, Israel launched devastating air strikes across Gaza before sending in ground forces on November 13th with the stated aim of eliminating Hamas rule in Gaza and rescuing kidnap victims.
The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza claims over 18,700 Palestinians have died since the war erupted. However, the figure is disputed by Israel which says it likely includes around 7,000 Hamas members killed.
Early on Friday, the Health Ministry reported dozens killed or hurt in Israeli air raids on Khan Younis while witnesses said several died in separate strikes on Nuseirat.
The military wing of Hamas has not yet commented on the return of the soldiers’ bodies or new IDF casualties. But a spokesman warned on Thursday that Israel would pay a “high price” for its invasion of Gaza.
Over 130 Israeli hostages are still presumed held in Gaza, with the IDF confirming 20 deaths so far. During a temporary ceasefire in late November, Hamas freed 105 Israeli civilians but negotiations on the remaining abductees have stalled since then.
So far, Israel has recovered the bodies of eight hostages killed in captivity. Four civilians were released by Hamas shortly after being captured on October 7th while one was rescued by troops last month.
As the death toll rises on both sides with no end in sight, international pressure for a mediated solution has so far been resisted by Israeli Prime Minister Moti Halevi who has vowed to continue operations in Gaza until “the enemy is eliminated.