The Israel Defense Forces on Friday confirmed the deaths of five hostages held in Gaza by the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
“In recent days, the Israel Defense Forces and Israel police notified the families of the hostages Eliyahu Margalit, Maya Goren, Ronen Engel and Arye Zalmanovitz about their deaths,” army spokesperson Daniel Hagari said.
The body of a fifth person, identified as Ofir Tsarfati, was brought back to Israel by troops. Tsarfati was abducted by Hamas militants from a rave party being held near the Israel-Gaza border on October 7. Hamas had launched an attack on southern Israel that day.
Hamas continues to hold at least 136 hostages, including 17 women and children, according to Hagari.
On Friday, the Gazan health ministry said that 178 Palestinians were killed and 589 injured after the Israeli military resumed its bombing in Gaza after a week-long truce, Al Jazeera reported.
The toll in the besieged Palestinian region now stands at over 15,000.
A four-day ceasefire began on November 24 to facilitate the exchange of hostages held by Hamas and Palestinians imprisoned by Israel. The two sides then extended the truce for three additional days to allow the release of more hostages.
The Israeli offensive resumed after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday that Hamas did not meet its obligation to release all of the women hostages in its custody and accused the group of launching rockets at Israeli citizens.
The latest attacks by Israel have been concentrated in southern Gaza where the Israeli military dropped leaflets urging people to leave their homes.
Israel has also revised its plan to divide Gaza into numerous small districts asking civilians to identify the numbered district they are located in.
As part of this plan, Palestinians in Gaza will have to conduct localised evacuations when warned, before Israel attacks using air strikes, artillery and ground troops, reported The Guardian.
The leaflets also included a quick response, or QR, code linked to an Israeli military website, mapping the numbered areas with a message in Arabic to “track and follow the instructions of the Israel Defense Forces” if they are evacuated, The Guardian reported.
Balakrishnan Rajagopal, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, said that the latest move shows Israel’s change in approach from “indiscriminate killing of civilians to organised killing”.
Rajagopal also questioned how Palestinians could regularly check such alerts in the absence of electricity or internet in southern Gaza.