The dramatic decision to declare six of the hostages dead was made at a special meeting held Thursday in the office of Israel's Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef. Also participating in the meeting was Lt. Col. (res.) Rabbi Yaakov Roja, who is considered the highest authority in the security establishment in all that has to do with determining the death of slain people.
Director General of the Religious Affairs Ministry Yehuda Avidan, Chief Military Rabbi Eyal Karim and Judge of the Great Rabbinical Court Ido Shahar also participated in the discussion. Representatives of the security system and representatives of the Health Ministry presented all the information they have that proves that these hostages have died.
Only after the rabbis were convinced beyond any shadow of a doubt that these hostages had been killed or died in captivity was it decided to make an official determination of their deaths. Importantly, these decisions have implications for allowing women to remarry. All those present at the discussion signed a confidentiality agreement.
Once it was confirmed that the six were dead, the families could be notified. The information that the security system presented to the rabbis considered reliable information that can be used to determine death. It should be noted that the halachic (according to Jewish law) determination of the death a murdered person is only made when there is 100% certainty and not 99%.
The dramatic meeting was preceded by a decision by a special committee of the health system, which included the head of the Israel National Center of Forensic Medicine Chen Kugel, Director General of Shaare Zedek Medical Center Ofer Merin , and a senior official from the Health Ministry, who analyzed all the information received and reached a medical determination that these people were dead.
After the decision was made the families of Aryeh Zalmanovich, Eliyahu Margalit, Mia Goren, Ronen Engel , Ofra Kidar and Guy Ilouz received the news that their loved ones were murdered in captivity. IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Daniel Hagari explained on Friday that behind the decision were "collected findings and established information."
A political official clarified on Saturday that "in order for the IDF to announce a death definitively, the information must be conclusive. For example, we were able to determine that Noa Marciano was not killed by the Air Force strikes, but was murdered." According to the source, "there is a combination of testimonies such as that of Mia Regev, who said that Guy Ilouz was with her in the hospital, or elderly people from Nir Oz who said that Zalmanovich died next to them."
However, the source clarified that "there are few cases in which hostages saw someone die next to them. The more numerous cases were of hostages who told about those who were in a difficult situation, sought treatment and did not return. When this intersects with information we have about an unnamed hostage of the same age who died, it verifies the information."
He added that the determination of death is based on "a collection of information and not necessarily on a single testimony."
"The information brought by the Israelis who returned was important, and included a report on the places where the abducted and missing were held, the nature of the behavior toward them and the conduct of Hamas during the war. They made a significant contribution," he added.
On Saturday evening, the IDF released for publication that Lt. Col. Assaf Hammi, the commander of the southern brigade in the Gaza Division, was killed in a surprise attack by Hamas on October 7, during a battle with terrorists near Kibbutz Nirim.
The IDF announced that the body of the late Hammi was abducted into Gaza, but in light of its findings, information received and with the approval of the chief military rabbi a funeral will be held for him. His death was determined after an examination of all the findings and based on reliable information. The findings that were located allowed the military rabbinate to determine that the burial is possible according to religious Jewish law.