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Israel finds body of hostage as cease-fire talks set to resume

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CAIRO, April 7: Israel’s military said on Saturday it had recovered the body of a 47-year-old farmer who was held hostage in Gaza, while negotiators prepared for another round of talks on Sunday on brokering a cease-fire and securing the release of the remaining hostages, six months into the war.
Israel’s army said it found the body of Elad Katzir and believed he was killed in January by militants with Islamic Jihad, one of the groups that entered southern Israel in the October 7 attack, killed more than 1,200 people and took about 250 hostages. Katzir was abducted from Nir Oz, a border community that suffered some of the heaviest losses.
The discovery renewed pressure on Israel’s government for a deal to get the remaining hostages freed, and thousands gathered in Tel Aviv to call for a deal as well as early elections. Hostages’ families have long feared time is running out. At least 36 hostages have been confirmed dead. About half of the original number have been released.
“He could have been saved if a deal had happened in time,” Katzir’s sister Carmit said in a statement. “Our leadership is cowardly and driven by political considerations, and that is why (a deal) did not happen.”
Israelis are divided on the approach by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government. A week ago, tens of thousands of Israelis thronged central Jerusalem in the largest anti-government protest since the war began.
Inside Gaza, the toll of Israel’s offensive is measured in tens of thousands of deaths and more than a million Palestinians displaced.
“We have arrived at a terrible milestone,” the UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said in a statement marking six months and noting “the immediate prospect of a shameful man-made famine.” He called the prospect of further escalation in Gaza “unconscionable.”
Cease-fire negotiations will resume on Sunday, according to an Egyptian official and Egypt’s state-owned Al Qahera TV. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the talks.
US President Joe Biden has sent CIA Director Bill Burns to Egypt. A Hamas delegation will arrive on Sunday to join the talks, the militant group said.
Hamas has insisted on linking a phased end to the war to any agreement releasing hostages. It has said it will agree to release 40 as part of an initial six-week cease-fire deal that would include the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. Hamas also seeks the return of displaced people to devastated northern Gaza and more aid.
Israel has offered to allow 2,000 displaced Palestinians — mainly women, children and older people — to the north daily during a six-week cease-fire.
The talks come days after international condemnation of Israeli airstrikes that killed seven humanitarian workers with the World Central Kitchen charity. The Israeli military described it as a tragic error.
Aid groups said the mistake is hardly an anomaly. The UN says at least 190 aid workers were killed in Gaza through the end of March.
Some Israel allies now consider halting arms sales. Biden warned Netanyahu that future US support for the war depends on swift implementation of new steps to protect civilians and aid workers. (AP)

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