An Israeli-American is the first U.S. citizen taken hostage who has died in Hamas captivity in Gaza, a group representing the families of Hamas prisoners announced on Friday.
Gadi Haggai, 73, a U.S.-Israeli dual national, was on a walk with his wife Judi Weinstein, 70, near Kibbutz Nir Oz when Hamas began its attack on the morning of Oct. 7. Weinstein was able to call a member of the kibbutz to tell them that she and her husband had been shot, and the two were presumed to be held hostage in Gaza.
The Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum has now announced, however, that Haggai was killed on Oct. 7 and his body taken into Gaza. His wife, who is also a Canadian citizen, is thought to still be alive and a hostage of the terrorist group.
Haggai is the first American hostage to have been killed during the conflict.
“It remains unclear how officials were able to determine he had died in captivity, as Hamas officials do not comment on the death reports,” per the New York Post.
“Haggai, a retired chef and jazz musician, was a father of four and grandfather of seven,” wrote the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. “His wife, Canadian citizen Judith Weinstein, remains in captivity.”
“Both Gadi and Judith considered themselves pacifists and were committed peace activists. Hamas of course couldn’t care less. Those animals are still holding the body of Gadi and Judith as hostage,” wrote Arsen Ostrovsky, CEO of the International Legal Forum.
“Instead of doing everything to demand Judith’s release, Canada is too busy lecturing Israel, while receiving thanks by Hamas for voting for U.N. ceasefire resolutions that don’t even mention the terror group,” Ostrovsky added.
Will Ripley, senior international correspondent at CNN, got emotional reporting the news: “73-years-old. That’s the same age as my parents,” he said. “Can’t imagine what the families have been going through.”
The White House and U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Neither put out a statement initially, nor did four accounts on X associated with U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, nor those of First Lady Jill Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the U.S. State Department and Matthew Miller, the department spokesman.
Some nine or 10 hours after the news was first reported, the White House released a statement from Biden.
“Jill and I are heartbroken by the news that American Gad Haggai is now believed to have been killed by Hamas on Oct. 7. We continue to pray for the well-being and safe return of his wife, Judy,” the president said.
“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,” Biden added. “Today, we are praying for their four children, seven grandchildren and other loved ones and are grieving this tragic news with them.”
“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,” he added.
“It’s been 76 days since Iran-backed Hamas terrorists took hundreds hostage, including Americans. And today, we learned of the heartbreaking death of 73-year-old Israeli-American hostage Gadi Haggai,” wrote Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.). “We can’t let this continue. We must bring them all home.”
“Another American killed by the Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist attack,” added Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.).
“Gadi Haggai, 73, was murdered by Hamas while being held hostage. Haggai was a retired chef and jazz musician, the father of four and the grandfather of seven. He and his wife were kidnapped by Hamas on Oct. 7 while on their morning walk,” wrote Ted Deutch, CEO of the American Jewish Committee.
“Murdering and kidnapping innocent elderly civilians. Hamas is an enemy of humanity,” he said. “May Gadi Haggai’s memory be a blessing.”