U.S.-Israeli Citizen Itay Chen Was Killed in Oct. 7 Attack, Parents Say


Itay Chen, a 19-year-old U.S. and Israeli citizen thought to have been taken hostage on Oct. 7, was in fact killed that day, his parents said on Tuesday.

The couple, Ruby and Hagit Chen, said that the Israeli military told them that it had intelligence indicating that their son, a service member, was killed while defending civilians on the border of Gaza during the Hamas-led invasion.

“Our hearts are broken,” the Chens said in a statement. “We loved him so much, and we would have done anything to bring him home alive.”

In an interview with The Times earlier this year, Itay’s father, Ruby Chen, described the young man as the “life of the party” and the “connector” of their family. A middle child, Mr. Chen said, Itay was multitalented and fun-loving, a Boy Scout who played basketball and, like many young people, loved his PlayStation.

Itay grew up in Israel, in the city of Netanya, just north of Tel Aviv, but his father said the family would frequently visit his own hometown, New York.

“I want to take him back to Coney Island,” he said. “I want to take him back to Madison Square Garden.”

Itay Chen had been counted as the youngest American hostage remaining in Hamas captivity. The Hostages and Missing Families Forum, a group representing families of the Israeli captives, said in a statement that his body was still being held by Hamas.

In their statement, Itay Chen’s parents thanked the Biden administration and members of Congress for their support. They added that they expected the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and President Biden to do “everything in their power” to bring Itay’s remains and the other hostages home.

Ruby Chen was part of a group of American families who met frequently with U.S. officials to push the White House to negotiate the release of their loved ones. Five other Americans are thought to still be hostages in Gaza, and their families have said that time is running out for them. At least 30 of the total remaining 136 hostages in Gaza are believed to be dead, according to Israeli intelligence.

The United States, Qatar and Egypt had hoped to secure a deal between Israel and Hamas for a cease-fire that would also allow the release of some of the hostages by the start of Ramadan, but no deal had come by the time the Muslim holy month began. Both sides have blamed each other for the lack of any progress on finalizing a deal; Israel has rejected Hamas’s demands for a comprehensive cease-fire, saying that without another hostage release, there will not be a pause in fighting.

Some relatives of Israeli hostages have demanded that Israeli officials take greater action to prioritize the release of their loved ones, mounting protests that have included storming Israeli Parliament meetings, blocking highways, conducting days-long marches and rallying outside Mr. Netanyahu’s house. Other families have said that the Israeli military should continue waging war against Hamas, even if it means their relatives remain in captivity.

In a statement, Mr. Biden said he joined the Chens in grieving for their son and reaffirmed his pledge to never stop working to bring the hostages home.

“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,” Mr. Biden said.

“No one should have to endure even one day of what they have gone through. At the end of our meeting, they gave me a menorah — a solemn reminder that light will always dispel the darkness, and evil will not win.”



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