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Only 50 hostages still alive in Gaza – WSJ

The safe return of those still in captivity is reportedly “at odds” with Israel’s war goals

The number of Israeli hostages still alive and being held by Hamas in Gaza could be as low as 50, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing US officials.

The armed wing of the Palestinian group captured 251 people in the October 7 attack on southern Israel, in which over 1,100 people were killed, triggering the nearly nine-month offensive by the Jewish state.

The Israeli army freed four captives earlier this month, bringing the total number of those released or rescued to 116. The bodies of 19 hostages have been returned to Israel.

Another 116 people were being held in Gaza, but many of those are now believed to be dead, the WSJ reported. The publication has cited mediators in the hostage talks and a US official familiar with the latest intelligence as saying the number of those hostages still living could be as low as 50.

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However, the safe return of those survivors “may be at odds” with Israel’s goal of destroying Hamas, the WSJ wrote.

Israel’s rescue operation in Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza in early June freed four hostages, but left scores of Palestinians dead.

“We must honestly say we will not be able to return everyone home in this way,” Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari admitted following the raid.

Ceasefire talks brokered by the US, Egypt and Qatar have not yet brought an agreement between the warring parties.

Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh said on Sunday that he wants a deal that would end the fighting in Gaza and lead to an exchange of hostages for Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Such an accord would also require all Israeli troops to withdraw from the Palestinian enclave.

The Hamas stance is consistent with the ceasefire principles put forward by US President Joe Biden, who announced the three-phase proposal late last month, and a UN Security Council resolution calling for the plan to be implemented.

The Israeli insists that it will continue its offensive in Gaza until it destroys Hamas. The death toll in the enclave is nearing 37,500, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

June 21, 2024 at 07:40PM

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