‘Dozens of hostages still alive but many could die soon,’ warns negotiator

Although they may die if kept captive much longer, any deal must return them all before ending the war because Hamas cannot be trusted, the official added.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Israel believes that dozens of hostages are still alive in the Gaza Strip and that any deal must see them returned before it can end the war, a senior Israeli official told AFP Monday.

“Tens are alive with certainty,” the official said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

They are in serious danger, the official acknowledged, saying, “We cannot leave them there a long time, they will die.”

However, in terms of a deal that would release them in exchange for a ceasefire leading to an end to the war, the official said that Israel cannot acquiesce to an agreement in which the IDF withdraws completely from Gaza before all of the hostages are freed.

This is because Hamas cannot be trusted to keep their side of the bargain, the official noted.

In the first phase of the current proposal being pushed by U.S. President Joe Biden, Israel would withdraw from “all populated areas of Gaza” in the very first phase, with only women, children, the ill and those older than 50 being released over that six-week period.

“During the first phase, there’s a clause that we hold negotiations about the second phase [about ending the war],” he explained. “The second phase is the release of the men and male soldier hostages.”

The terrorists, however, could “breach their commitment… and drag out the negotiations for 10 years” or more, he said.

While Biden declared the deal to be an “Israeli” one, and according to the wire service the official said that Israel’s negotiating team has signed off on it, publicly at least, the government has not approved it.

Hamas has made “substantial changes” to the deal since receiving it that are unacceptable to Jerusalem, according to other Israeli officials, and then rejected it anyway.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Galant have repeatedly stated that military pressure is the best way to get Hamas to agree to a deal.

The official said that such pressure will go on.

“In the event we don’t reach an agreement with Hamas, the IDF will continue to fight in the Gaza Strip in a no less intense fashion than it’s fighting now,” he said.

Of the 116 hostages still left in captivity, Israel has announced that 43 are known to be dead.

Some were murdered on October 7, the day Hamas and other terrorist organizations sparked the ongoing war by invading Israel and massacring 1,200 people, the vast majority of them civilians, including the elderly and infants.

Others have either been murdered by terrorists while in captivity, or died accidentally from Israeli airstrikes on terror sites in Gaza. Three were tragically killed by IDF troops in a case of mistaken identity, after they had escaped their captors.

The official noted that most of the live hostages are in Hamas hands, although some are being held by other terror groups.

Hamas and other terrorist organizations kidnapped 252 Israelis and foreign nationals during their October 7 surprise invasion of Gazan envelope communities and a dance rave, in which they also massacred 1,200 people, the vast majority of them civilians, including the elderly and infants.

Just over a hundred were released in two parallel deals in November. In one, some two dozen Thai agricultural workers were freed in an agreement hammered out in Iran. In the other, 86 women and children were exchanged for about 245 Palestinian women and minors held on terrorist offenses in Israeli prisons.

Four women were released before then as “goodwill gestures,” and Israel has rescued seven live hostages and 16 bodies since the beginning of the ground incursion in Gaza.

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