An American-Israeli citizen held hostage by Hamas in Gaza was announced dead by the Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday.

Itay Chen, the 19-year-old son of Ruby and Hagit Chen, went missing in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacksagainst Israel that killed over 1,200 civilians and took hundreds of others hostage. Itay, one of the American hostages believed to be remaining in Hamas captivity, was killed during the Oct. 7 attacks — and his family is maintaining their call for a deal to secure the release of the remaining hostages.

“Last night, we were notified by the Israeli Defense Forces that, based on intelligence materials, our son, Itay Chen, was killed by Hamas on Oct. 7 defending civilians on the border of Gaza,” Ruby and Hagit said in a statement on Tuesday. “Our hearts are broken. We loved him so much, and we would have done anything to bring him home alive.”

Israel and Hamas are currently trying to broker a deal through U.S., Egyptian and Qatari negotiators to to free the hostages in exchange for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza. Ruby previously told the DCNF that a deal to secure the hostages must be the central priority.

“We urge all the players, specifically the United States, to put any pressure it has on Qatar, on Egypt, even on the state of Israel to get a deal done,” Ruby told the DCNF. Ruby also requested people keep his family, and all of the hostages and their families, in their prayers.

Itay is described by Ruby and Hagit as a “fun-loving, bright light for his family and friends and a talented basketball player who loved shooting hoops with his brothers,” according to the statement. Itay was strong-spirited and “never backs down,” Ruby previously told the DCNF.

Itay, who spent time in both New York and Israel, was serving for the IDF at the Israel Nahal Oz base bordering Gaza when Hamas launched its attacks on Oct. 7, according to The Jerusalem Post. Israeli and U.S. intelligence determined Itay had been killed and brought back to Gaza by Hamas terrorists, according to Axios.

Over 100 hostages have either been freed or released by Hamas, and currently over 130 remain in Gaza; however, roughly 32 hostages have now been confirmed dead in captivity and the well-being of the remaining is unknown, according to The Times of Israel.

The State Department previously told the DCNF that it was tracking the American hostages remaining in Gaza, but did not have information as to their status. The U.S. is seeking the return of the American hostages who have been confirmed dead as well as an “accounting of their deaths,” the State Department said.

“We will continue our intensive efforts to secure a deal until all hostages are released,” a State Department spokesperson told the DCNF.

Ruby and Hagit have been on the frontlines of the effort to free their son and the hostages in any way they can. They have met with congressional leaders, U.S. officials, the CIA, White House National Security Council and President Joe Biden, according to Axios, and have attended events to raise awareness for the urgent issue, with Ruby recently joining other hostage families at the State of the Union last week.

The U.S. government has been in regular contact with the families, Ruby told the DCNF.

“Our hearts are heavy. Jill and I are devastated to learn that American Itay Chen was killed by Hamas,” Biden said in a statement on Tuesday. “Today, as we join Itay’s parents, brothers, and family in grieving this tragic loss, we keep this reminder close to our hearts. And I reaffirm my pledge to all the families of those still held hostage: we are with you. We will never stop working to bring your loved ones home.”

“We want to thank the Biden administration, members of the U.S. House and Senate from both sides of the aisle, and the American people for their unwavering support and prayers over the last 158 days,” Ruby and Hagit said on Tuesday. “Even more so today, we expect Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Biden to do everything in their power to bring Itay, as well as the other 133 hostages, back home to us.”

Jake Smith on March 12, 2024

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