A 23-year-old German-Israeli woman who was kidnapped at the Nova music festival by Hamas militants on October 7 has been declared dead, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said.
“We are devastated to share that the body of 23-year-old German-Israeli Shani (Louk) has been found and identified,” the ministry posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Monday.
A source involved in his identification told CNN that Louk’s death was announced after forensic examiners found a bone fragment from his skull.
The bone fragment came from the petrous part of the temporal bone, which is located at the base of the skull, usually near the carotid artery, a major blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain. A DNA test concluded that the fragment belonged to Louk.
Louk was attending the festival in southern Israel on October 7 when Hamas crossed the border between Gaza and Israel.
Louk was kidnapped at the festival and “tortured and paraded around Gaza by Hamas terrorists,” the Foreign Ministry statement said, adding that she “experienced unfathomable horrors.”
“May his memory be a blessing,” the statement said.
The bone fragment, combined with the circumstances surrounding the Oct. 7 attack and video that appeared to show Louk unconscious in the back of a Hamas truck, led investigators to conclude it was his remains.
Militants blocked the road to the festival from the north and south during their Oct. 7 attack, before overrunning the sprawling site on foot, videos from the site show.
They then surrounded the crowd on three sides, shot them, and forced them to flee across the fields to the east.
Ricarda Louk, Shani’s mother, told CNN earlier this month that she last spoke to her daughter after hearing rockets and alarms ringing in southern Israel, calling to see if she had reached safety. Shani told her mother that she was at the festival and that she had few places to hide.
“She was going to her car and there were soldiers standing next to the cars and shooting so that people couldn’t reach their cars, not even to leave. And that’s when they took her away,” Ricarda told CNN, adding that she hoped to see her daughter again, but that the situation seemed bleak.
“It looks very bad, but I still have hope. I hope they don’t take bodies for negotiations. I hope she’s still alive somewhere. We have nothing more to look forward to, so I try to believe,” she said.
According to the Israeli Zaka rescue service, more than 260 bodies were found at the Nova festival site, but according to CNN analysis, the total death toll could be even higher.
The body of Louk, a dual Israeli and German citizen, was seen on video apparently unconscious in the back of a Hamas truck after the music festival attack.
“After the video, you saw that, it is impossible to see if she is alive or dead. It was very scary and we were very worried,” Louk’s mother told CNN in the days after the rampage.
Her mother added that she had sought support from the German government to help free her daughter. “I really don’t understand how something so brutal can happen in the middle of the day and it was a complete surprise,” Louk said.
Several hostages were also returned to Gaza. The latest number of hostages Hamas is believed to be holding in the enclave stands at 239, Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said on Sunday.
An Israeli soldier who had been kidnapped by Hamas on October 7 was freed during ground operations in Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces said on Monday.
The IDF added that “the soldier was medically examined, is doing well and was reunited with her family.”
Four hostages had previously been freed: an American woman and her daughter, and later an 85-year-old Israeli woman and her 79-year-old friend.
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under increasing pressure from the hostages’ families to reach a “comprehensive agreement” to ensure their release. These calls are becoming more urgent amid concerns about what Israel’s increased ground operations could mean for the safety of hostages trapped in Gaza.
Netanyahu met with the hostages’ families in Tel Aviv on Saturday, where they demanded answers about the safety of their loved ones and pressed him to ensure the hostages’ freedom, as Israel’s offensive intensified.
“We spoke bluntly and made it clear to the prime minister in very clear terms that a comprehensive agreement based on the principle of ‘all for all’ is an agreement that families would consider and has the support of all of Israel,” Meirav Leshem Gonen. , the mother of Romi Gonen, who was kidnapped at the festival, said on behalf of the families at a press conference after the meeting.
An “all for all” deal would involve the release of the hostages in exchange for Palestinians currently detained in Israeli prisons, which the non-governmental organization Palestinian Prisoners Club estimates at 6,630 people.
On Monday, Hamas released a short video showing three women believed to be held captive by the Palestinian militant group.
The video shows them sitting on plastic chairs facing the camera, while the woman in the middle addresses Netanyahu directly with growing fury. She references a press conference by the hostages’ families “yesterday,” suggesting it was filmed on Monday.
The women show no visible signs of physical abuse, but CNN cannot verify anything about their circumstances or well-being.