First American Hostage Confirmed Dead In Gaza, Family Advocates Say

(Photo by Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

Reagan Reese White House Correspondent
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An Israeli-American citizen being held by Hamas in Gaza has been announced dead, according to the Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum representing the families.

Gadi Haggai, a 73-year-old Israeli-American hostage who was taken hostage during Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attack, was announced as the first American hostage to have died in the Israel-Hamas war, the Forum told the Times of Israel. Haggai’s wife, Judi, still remains in captivity by Hamas, the outlet reported.

Haggai and his wife had gone out for a morning walk “in fields and vineyards” before being shot at and eventually kidnapped by Hamas, the Times of Israel reported. Hamas is reportedly holding his body in Gaza, the outlet reported.

“Gadi was a man full of humor who knew how to make those around him laugh. A musician at heart, a gifted flutist, he played in the IDF Orchestra and was involved with music his whole life,”  the Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum said in a statement.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said Tuesday that the United States believed there were eight Americans being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) estimated that as of Dec. 15 that 136 hostages were being held in Gaza, The Associated Press reported.

“Jill and I are heartbroken by the news that American Gad Haggai is now believed to have been killed by Hamas on October 7,” Biden said in a Friday statement. “We continue to pray for the well-being and safe return of his wife, Judy. Their daughter joined by phone my meeting with the families of hostages last week. Those families bravely shared with me the harrowing ordeal that they have endured over the past months as they await news of their loved ones. It’s intolerable.”

“Today, we are praying for their four children, seven grandchildren, and other loved ones and are grieving this tragic news with them,” Biden continued. “And I reaffirm the pledge we have made to all the families of those still held hostage: we will not stop working to bring them home.”

In November, the United States helped broker a humanitarian pause in the Israel-Hamas war so hostages could be exchanged. During the pause, more than 100 hostages were released from Hamas’ custody. Four Americans have been released in total in the Israel-Hamas war.

President Joe Biden was asked about another hostage deal on Wednesday to which he confirmed and then immediately walked it back. (RELATED: White House Reportedly Snubbed Families Of American Hostages Seeking Invite To Hanukkah Reception)

“Are we expecting a hostage deal any time soon?” a reporter asked the president.

“Yes,” Biden responded.

“Oh really. Okay?” the reporter asked.

“Wait. Where?” the 81-year-old president quickly interjected before the reporter clarified that he was referring to Gaza.

After the reporter pressed further, Biden said that “there’s no expectation at this point, but we are pushing.”