Israeli Aryeh Zalmanovich, 85, the oldest hostage taken by Hamas, confirmed to have died in captivity

 December 2, 2023

During the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in Israel, the small farming community known as Kibbutz Nir Oz was among the targets for the terror group's horrific wave of murders, kidnappings, and other atrocities.

Among those kidnapped from Nir Oz that day was Aryeh Zalmanovich, 85, a founder of the kibbutz who was also the oldest Israeli hostage and who has now been confirmed to have died while held in captivity by Hamas, according to Breitbart.

The outlet noted that roughly one-fourth of the community's estimated 400 residents were kidnapped or murdered on Oct. 7, and the Nir Oz residents taken captive by Hamas reportedly account for around one-third of all of the terror group's hostages held in Gaza.

Death of elderly kibbutz founder confirmed

Breitbart reported that Nir Oz released a statement that confirmed the initial reports that Zalmanovich had passed away while being held in captivity by Hamas.

"With great sadness Kibbutz Nir Oz announces the murder of Aria (Zalman) Zalmanowicz. Zalman was 85 years old, and was a founder of Kibbutz Nir Oz," the community said. "Zalman was a father of two and grandfather of five grandchildren. He was a man of the land, dedicated to agriculture his entire life. He was an avid reader, with a wide knowledge of history and the country. May his memory be a blessing."

According to The Times of Israel, Zalmanovich, who was born in Haifa before Israel was even a nation and helped found the kibbutz in 1955, was further confirmed by the Israel Defense Force to be one of four Nir Oz residents who had died while being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza.

"We are continuing to invest many intelligence and operational efforts, to bring information on the conditions of the hostages," IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told reporters during a press conference, and added that the four deaths had been conclusively declared "based on findings that were collected, and intelligence."

Family and community say Zalmanovich was "murdered" by Hamas

The Messenger reported that questions had previously been raised about the status and well-being of Zalmanovich after Hamas released a video a couple of weeks ago that featured the elderly hostage and appeared to show him in exceptionally poor health, if not already dead.

Hamas claimed that Zalmanovich had died due to a heart attack that he suffered amid an IDF artillery and airstrike bombardment near where he was being held, but that claim was sharply disputed by the elderly man's son, Boaz, and others in the community who insist that the kibbutz founder was murdered by the terrorists.

In a social media post translated from Hebrew to English, Boaz wrote, "Abba Zalman, who was kidnapped on the seventh of October, was murdered with physical and mental torture by the evildoers. My heart is torn to pieces, we will miss you. All the abductees and the elderly and the sick whose time is limited must be returned."

Hamas has released fewer than half of the estimated 240 hostages taken on Oct. 7

The Times reported that Hamas killed at least 1,200 mostly Israeli civilians on Oct. 7 and kidnapped at least 240 people, the overwhelming majority of whom were Israelis.

During the temporary ceasefire that recently ended when Hamas launched rockets into Israel and conducted a shooting attack in Jerusalem, which prompted the IDF to resume its ground operations and bombardment of Gaza, a total of 105 civilian hostages were released by Hamas, which included 81 Israeli citizens, 23 citizens of Thailand, and one citizen from the Philippines.

In exchange for the release of those hostages, Israel released 210 convicted Palestinian criminals and terrorists held in Israeli prisons and also allowed a substantial amount of humanitarian aid and supplies to be trucked into Gaza -- even as it was well known that Hamas would appropriate much of it for their own purposes.

The Times noted that, per government officials, it is believed that Hamas still holds 136 hostages, of which 125 are Israeli while the remaining 11 are foreign nationals, mostly from Thailand. Of those remaining hostages, two are young children, 20 are adult women, 114 are adult men, and 10 are older than 75.

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