Suspicions grow that Hamas may not have 40 live hostages to swap for prisoners

US officials familiar with intelligence have said that most of the hostages are no longer alive. 

By Vered Weiss, World Israel News

While 133 Israelis remain in captivity in the Gaza Strip, suspicions are now growing that Hamas may not even have 40 living hostages to release in the first stage of a potential deal with Israel, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Hamas has thus far refused to provide Israel with a list of surviving hostages in Gaza or signs of life.

In addition, The Wall Street Journal reports that Hamas said it could agree to release 40 hostages as part of a deal without stipulating that they were living hostages.

This ambiguity is complicated by reports that many of the hostages are kept by other terrorist groups not participating in negotiations and captives may be dispersed among the Gazan population  in unknown locations.

Hamas kidnapped approximately 250 Israelis hostage on October 7, with 112 having been subsequently freed or released, including those returned to Israel in the November 2023 hostage deal.

Of those remaining, 34 have been confirmed dead, with later reports suggesting 50 may have been killed in captivity, leaving roughly 80 hostages who are presumed to be alive.

The Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. officials familiar with intelligence have said that most of the hostages are no longer alive.

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The causes of death among deceased hostages might have been injuries they received while they were captured, injuries suffered in captivity, or from illness, while some of them may have been killed in Israel on October 7th, with their bodies taken to Gaza.

It is believed that the hostages who are still alive are being used as human shields by Hamas.

Hamas has repeatedly demanded that it would only release hostages if Israel committed to a complete ceasefire.

The terror group insisted that it needed a ceasefire to locate all of the hostages, although even during the pause in fighting in November, Hamas failed to provide a list of 10 additional civilian women and children in Gaza.

There is some speculation among mediators that Hamas may know the whereabouts of living hostages, but they are reluctant to surrender information that would compromise their leverage in negotiations.