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Hamas Does Not Have 40 Hostages Who Meet Terms of Potential Swap With Israel, Official Says


A senior Hamas official said on Wednesday that Hamas did not have 40 living hostages in Gaza who met the criteria for an exchange under a proposed cease-fire agreement with Israel being negotiated.

A senior Israeli official said Israel had been relayed Hamas’s claim, and the senior Hamas official said that the group had informed mediators facilitating the negotiations. The Israeli official and the Hamas official requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.

The assertion raised fears that more hostages might be dead than previously believed and came as talks between Hamas and Israel stalled amid disagreements over the permanency of a cease-fire, the return of displaced Palestinians to northern Gaza and other issues.

International negotiators have proposed an initial six-week cease-fire during which Hamas would release a first group of 40 hostages — including women, older people, ill hostages and five female Israeli soldiers — in exchange for hundreds of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons as well as other demands.

Israeli officials believe there are about 130 hostages remaining in Gaza, and Israeli intelligence officers have concluded that at least 30 of those have died in captivity.

It was not immediately clear if Israel would now demand that young men and soldiers be included among the first 40 released captives. Those hostages had been expected to have to wait for a later phase of the deal.

The development came days after the Israeli military said it had recovered the body of an Israeli hostage who, like around 240 others, was abducted during the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack.

The Israeli government and Hamas held a brief cease-fire in Gaza in November to allow for the release of around 100 hostages captured during the assault in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, offering a respite from a devastating bombing campaign.



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