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Home CNN Dual US-Israeli citizen Itay Chen, who was thought to have been held hostage in Gaza, was killed October 7, IDF announces

Dual US-Israeli citizen Itay Chen, who was thought to have been held hostage in Gaza, was killed October 7, IDF announces

by Chanel Rowe
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Originally Published: 12 MAR 24 11:10 ET

Updated: 12 MAR 24 12:19 ET

By Alisha Ebrahimji and MJ Lee, CNN

(CNN) — Dual US-Israeli citizen Itay Chen, who was believed to have been held hostage in Gaza, was killed October 7 during the Hamas attacks on Israel, the Israeli military announced Tuesday.

Chen, 19, had been serving on the Gaza border on October 7, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum said Tuesday. He was one of six US citizens thought to have been held alive in Gaza and is at least the fourth dual US citizen whose body is being held in Gaza, along with those of Aviv Atzili and husband and wife Gad Haggai and Judih Weinstein Haggai.

Chen’s remains were taken into Gaza after he was killed, the Israel Defense Forces said; Israel considers people hostages even after death until their remains are returned. Thirty-two of the 130 October 7 hostages are now believed to be dead, according to CNN records.

“No one should have to endure even one day of what they have gone through,” President Joe Biden wrote Tuesday of Chen’s family after learning of his death.

More than 1,200 people in Israel were killed during Hamas’ October 7 attacks on Israel, with more than 250 kidnapped and taken hostage in Gaza. More than 30,000 people have been killed and 70,000 injured in Gaza since that day, according the health ministry in the besieged enclave; Israel estimates about 10,000 Hamas fighters have been killed since October 7, when Israel declared war on the militant group.

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Chen was the second of three sons, a former Boy Scout and a fierce basketball player, his father Ruby Chen told CNN in November. The teen was always surrounded by friends and loved hiking, sports, good food and listening to music, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum said.

He was “a beloved individual who drew others to him with his warm presence,” the forum said.

Just a week ago, Ruby Chen told CNN’s Jake Tapper he’d had a dream that Biden told him, “‘Your kid Itay, he’s on a plane back home,’” and he still hoped that dream could come true.

Family calls on Biden administration to get dual American hostages out of Gaza

For months, Ruby Chen had urged the Biden administration to get the remaining dual American hostages out of Gaza. Biden after learning of Itay Chen’s death recalled how “in December, Itay’s father and brother joined me at the White House, to share the agony and uncertainty they’ve faced as they prayed for the safe return of their loved one.”

The elder Chen also in December had pointed to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s deal with Hamas to release Israeli-Russian hostages from Gaza during the first pause in fighting.

“President Putin kind of opened our eyes that there is the ability to do a separate deal on a specific nationality,” he told CNN at the time. “So, that precedent is something that I think is logical to suggest or to consider.”

But after meeting in January with national security adviser Jake Sullivan and othertop officials, Chen said he felt deep disappointment and frustration: “Where’s justice? And do we want more dead US citizens? What is the administration doing about that?”

“I’m not a politician; I’m just a mom,” Itay’s mother Hagit Chen told Tapper last week. “I want my son back home. It needs to be resolved soon because the time is killing all the hostages.

“We keep hearing, you know, more and more hostages are not alive anymore, and they could have been alive if they were home already.”

Chen just last week had attended Biden’s State of the Union address as the guest of a lawmaker and later told CNN he wondered what, if anything, might force the Biden administration to consider what he described as “plan B” to get the American hostages out.

Itay Chen’s aunt, Esther “Etty” Israeli, was also invited, by Republican US Sen. Marco Rubio, to attend Thursday’s State of the Union.

“The pain and sorrow does not wane for the families of the victims,” Rubio wrote in a statement ahead of the speech. “The uncertainty and grief can be paralyzing, especially for those like Etty Israeli still holding out hope that their loved ones will return home.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Ivana Kottasova and Nikki Carvajal contributed to this report.

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Itay Chen

Dual US-Israeli citizen, Itay Chen, was killed October 7 in the Hamas attacks, the Israeli military said.

Hostages and Missing Families Forum via CNN Newsource

12 Mar 24

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