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What to Know About Hostages Still in Gaza

What to Know About Hostages Still in Gaza

Israelis briefly breathed a collective sigh of relief on Saturday, when the military announced it had rescued four hostages who were held in Gaza for eight months after being captured in the Oct. 7 attack led by Hamas.

The four hostages had been taken at the Nova music festival on Oct. 7 and were rescued in an operation in the town of Nuseirat in central Gaza early Saturday. The mission left scores of Palestinians, including women and children, dead. News of the rescue raised renewed questions about the fate of those who remain in captivity and a proposed cease-fire deal.

How many hostages are still being held in Gaza?

Roughly 120 captives remain in Gaza. The Israeli military has confirmed that at least 30 of them have died.

Earlier this month, the Israeli military informed the families of four hostages that they were dead and that their bodies were being held by Hamas. In May, the military recovered the bodies of nine hostages, and the families of two Thai citizens who had been captured were informed that their bodies were still being held in Gaza.

Will Israel undertake more rescue operations?

Dozens of proposed rescue missions have not gone forward for fear the hostages or soldiers would lose their lives in the process, according to Israeli defense officials.

Israeli troops have managed to rescue only seven living hostages in three separate military operations. In December, Israeli troops accidentally fired on and killed three hostages in Gaza who were trying to reach safety.

How did Hamas respond to the operation?

In a statement on social media, Abu Obaida, the military spokesman for Al-Qassam Brigades, accused Israel of “a complex war crime” and suggested that the rescue operation had endangered the remaining hostages and would have “a negative impact on their conditions and lives.”

What are the families of the hostages saying?

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum, which represents the families of the captives, held a rally in Tel-Aviv on Saturday, as it has throughout the war. The gathering drew thousands to celebrate the rescue operation. But the group stressed the urgency of bringing home all of the remaining captives in Gaza.

“The joyous news of the return home of Shlomi, Noa, Almog and Andrey to their families through a military operation reminds us all that, for 36 weeks, 120 hostages have been waiting to return home,” the group said in a statement that referred to the names of the freed captives and that pressed for the acceptance of a proposed cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas that would bring home the remaining hostages.

What is happening with the proposed cease-fire deal?

President Biden in late May outlined a road map for a three-phase plan that would begin with an immediate, temporary cease-fire and work toward a permanent end to the war and the reconstruction of Gaza.

In the first phase, both sides would observe a six-week cease-fire, Israel would withdraw from major population centers in Gaza and a number of hostages would be released, including women, the elderly and the wounded.

Israel and Hamas would continue to negotiate to reach a permanent cease-fire. If they are successful, the deal would enter phase two, with the full withdrawal of Israel’s military from the enclave.

All hostages and more Palestinian prisoners would be freed. In phase three, Hamas would return the bodies of hostages who had died, and a reconstruction period, backed by the United States, European countries and international institutions, would begin in Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is facing competing pressures from the United States and other allies to end the war and from two far-right partners in his governing coalition who have threatened to bring down his government should Israel agree to a deal that would end the war without eliminating Hamas.

Hamas previously said that it was responding “positively” to the plan but had informed mediators that the group would not approve an agreement that did not provide a path for a permanent cease-fire, a total withdrawal of Israeli troops, and a “serious and real deal” to exchange Palestinian prisoners for hostages.

It is not clear what effect the latest hostage rescue operation will have on deal negotiations.

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