Middle East

Hamas tells negotiators it doesn’t have 40 Israeli hostages needed for first round of ceasefire

By Alex Marquardt and Jeremy Diamond, CNN

CNN  — 

Hamas has indicated it is currently unable to identify and track down 40 Israeli hostages needed for the first phase of a ceasefire deal, according to an Israeli official and a source familiar with the discussions, raising fears that more hostages may be dead than are publicly known.

The framework that has been laid out by negotiators says that during a first six-week pause in the fighting, Hamas should release 40 of the remaining hostages, including all the women as well as sick and elderly men.  In exchange, hundreds of Palestinian prisoners would be released from Israeli prisons.

Hamas has told international mediators – which include Qatar and Egypt – it does not have 40 living hostages who match those criteria for release, both sources said.

CNN’s record of the conditions of the hostages also suggests there are fewer than 40 living hostages who meet the proposed criteria.

The inability – or unwillingness – of Hamas to tell Israel which hostages would be released, alive, is a major obstacle, the second source added.

With Hamas appearing to be unable to reach 40 in the proposed categories, Israel has pushed for Hamas fill out the initial release with younger male hostages, including soldiers, the Israeli official said.

Throughout the months of negotiations since the last ceasefire Israel has repeatedly asked for a list of the hostages and their conditions. Hamas has argued that it needs a break in the fighting to be able to track and gather down the hostages, the same argument it made in November before a week-long pause that broke down after Hamas failed to deliver more hostages.

The majority of the almost 100 hostages who remain alive are believed to be male IDF soldiers or men of military reserve age. Hamas is expected to try to use to them in later phases to try to negotiate more significant concessions, including more high-level prisoners and a permanent end to the war.

The more than 250 hostages captured or killed on October 7 are believed to have been spread out among different members and factions of Hamas, as well as other militant groups, gangs and even held by families.

The Israeli prime minister’s office said Wednesday that of the 129 hostages from the October 7 attack currently held, 33 are dead.

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