Hamas says it does not have 40 living Israeli hostages needed for a ceasefire

Hamas has told international mediators that it cannot identify 40 living hostages who meet the requirements for a US-backed cease-fire, as US and Israeli officials increasingly fear that most of the people still held may already be dead.

The proposal for a six-week ceasefire consisted of Hamas releasing 40 hostages, including women, children, elderly men and those in poor health, in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. The terrorist group, however, told international mediators that it does not have 40 hostages alive who meet those criteria.

Officials familiar with negotiations said The Wall Street Journal this week that US estimates indicate that most of the hostages are already dead. However, the United States has limited information about the hostages and relies on Israeli intelligence.

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Both Israeli and American officials estimate that the number of deceased hostages is higher than they previously believed.

U.S. officials told the outlet that the hostages may have died of health reasons, including injuries they sustained when they were captured. Some US officials said some hostages could have been killed during Israeli strikes on Gaza.

A Hamas official reportedly said the terror group would not commit to releasing 40 hostages alive but could take a total of 40 hostages, suggesting some would be dead. The Israeli military and the prime minister's office would not publicly state their estimates of how many hostages remain alive.

It is believed that 130 hostages remain in Gaza. In February, an Israeli intelligence report confirmed the deaths of 34 of the hostages taken by Hamas. According to The New York Timesthe report stated that some of the prisoners were killed on October 7, the day the terrorist group launched its attack on Israel.

After Hamas militants broke through the border on October 7, the terrorists massacred at least 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and they kidnapped more than 240 others.

In response, Israel launched an offensive in Gaza to wipe out Hamas and secure the release of the hostages. The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry claims that at least 33,000 people have been killed since the war began. However, these numbers do not distinguish between civilians and combatants.

During a temporary ceasefire last year, more than 100 hostages were freed as part of a deal that included Israel releasing Palestinian prisoners convicted of violent crimes, such as stabbing Israeli soldiers.

Last weekend, Israeli authorities confirmed the death of Elad Katzir, a 47-year-old farmer abducted by Hamas during the group's October 7 attack. The terrorist group took Katzir from Nir Oz kibbutz and held him captive in Khan Yunis, a city in Gaza.

The Israel Defense Forces and Israel Security Agency said the farmer died while being held prisoner by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organization. The IDF and ISA announced that they took the body of the man after a sudden attack.

“The body of the abductee Elad Katzir, who according to information was murdered in captivity by the terrorist organization Islamic Jihad, was rescued during the night from Khan Yunis and returned to Israeli territory,” announced the Israeli agencies in a statement.

In statement on social networks, Katzir's sister, Carmit Palty Katzir, said that one “consolation” is that her brother “will have a grave in Nir Oz.” Carmit was critical of the Israeli government, claiming it could have done more to prevent her brother's death.

“Elad was kidnapped from his home in Nir Oz alive and well and filmed twice from captivity,” the sister wrote. “He could have been saved if a deal had happened in time. Our leadership is cowardly and without political considerations, and therefore, it did not happen.”

“Eladi, may the memory of you be of laughter, hugs and joy, fields and soil,” she added. “This is not how your story should have ended. Please forgive us for failing to save you. I will love you forever.”

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