Israel-Hamas hostage deal: Where things stand

The Biden administration is hoping for a breakthrough in securing the release of dozens of hostages violently abducted from Israel by Hamas on October 7th.

The United States is engaged in intensive negotiations with Israel to rescue an estimated 240 people held under an intelligence blackout, but all evidence of life, living conditions, and health conditions are unknown and unconfirmed.

“President Biden and his team are here. [are] “We are doing everything in our power to secure the hostages taken by Hamas and free them, including young children and, of course, the Americans in that pool,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Monday. Stated.

“We are hopeful because we believe we are closer than ever. But there is still work to be done. And nothing will be done until it is all done. Therefore, we will continue to work on this.”

Hamas’s failure to free all the hostages comes despite mounting pressure from the international community to ease a desperate humanitarian crisis, as Israel continues its military operation in the Gaza Strip with US support. This is one of the reasons why Japan rejected a complete ceasefire. More than 11,000 Palestinians were killed, half of them believed to be children.

The US is reportedly proposing a deal that would allow Israel and Hamas to cease fighting for five days and allow Hamas to release dozens of women and children. Those believed to be held by Hamas include infants, toddlers and children as young as a few months old, as well as the elderly and sick.

Biden specifically noted that the 3-year-old American hostage was focused on motive, and the president said efforts were being done hourly, five to six times a day. .

Biden: ‘We won’t stop until we get her’ said last week.

Qatar and Egypt are the main mediators in hostage release negotiations, collecting messages from Hamas military leaders believed to be hiding underground in the Gaza Strip and passing them on to Israeli and U.S. officials. .

It was a tedious exchange, with U.S. and Israeli officials accusing Hamas of trying to delay Israel’s military invasion of Gaza by raising the possibility of releasing the hostages but failing to do so. ing.

Israeli a hostage negotiator told NPR. Hamas leaders are understood to have passed slips of paper through tunnels in Gaza to intelligence officials on the Egyptian border, before traveling to Qatar to pass them on to US officials and then to Israel.

In public statements, Hamas makes no distinction between those abducted in the October 7 terrorist attack, calling all hostages “Zionist prisoners of war” and denigrating what it sees as Israel’s illegitimate presence.

The majority of those kidnapped are Israelis, including civilians and some soldiers, but civilians of other nationalities were also taken hostage, including South Asians who worked in Israeli communities around the Gaza Strip.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Israeli security officials on Sunday released video evidence of Hamas forcibly deporting Thai and Nepalese civilians from Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital.

And the IDF first announced it had recovered the bodies of two people taken hostage by Hamas in Gaza. Noah Marciano and civilian Ehudit Weiss (65 years old, mother of five children).

“We don’t know if everyone knows where all the hostages are being held at this point. We don’t even know who among them is alive and who is not, who is injured or not. ,” Israeli Embassy Deputy Representative Eliav Benjamin told The Hill in an interview last week.

“Hamas is not allowing the International Red Cross to visit them or even give them any signs of life. Forget about Israel, they are not giving the International Red Cross any signs of life. .”

Hamas has released only four people. The initial release of the hostages was intended to demonstrate that such transfers were possible with the help of the International Red Cross, but some U.S. officials believe the slow pace of hostage releases suggests that Hamas is He said this shows that he is not serious about freeing the people.

“That’s a real question. [Hamas military commander] “Yahya Sinwar is more or less serious about releasing hostages,” Barbara Leaf, assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, told a House committee in early November.

Gerald Feierstein, a former ambassador to Yemen and assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs during the Obama administration, said Hamas is likely demanding the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, and that an agreement is likely. He said it was delaying the process.

“Hamas is not just negotiating a ceasefire. They want to demonstrate that they got some tangible benefit to the Palestinians from this whole thing,” he said. “And a ceasefire in itself doesn’t quite meet that requirement. They have to get something more than that. And that may be the holdup.”

An American mother and her teenage daughter were among the first to be released on October 20th.

Two elderly Israeli women were released on October 23rd. One of the women, Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, gave an unprecedented insight shortly after returning to Israel, recounting to the media that “she went through hell” during her 17-day captivity. provided. About how the kidnapped people were being held.

Lifshitz spoke at a microphone while sitting in a wheelchair, surrounded by reporters packed into the lobby of the hospital where he was recuperating.

According to her account, she detailed how Hamas dropped her into a network of tunnels, which she described as a giant spider’s web, where she walked for miles underground, and more than 20 people He said he was detained in a room large enough for him to stay overnight. The New York Times reported.

Lifshitz said the hostages were given the same diet as the guards – one meal a day consisting of pita bread, two types of cheese and cucumbers – and were also provided with medicine, shampoo and feminine hygiene products.

“They were very conscious about hygiene,” she said, according to the New York Times. There was a doctor nearby who checked on us every two or three days. And the doctor responsibly brought us medicine. If they didn’t have the exact same medication, they brought an equivalent. ”

Families of the hostages and their supporters have been protesting in Israel for weeks to keep the focus on the fate of their loved ones and press the Israeli government to make every effort to secure their release. .

The family has reportedly clashed with far-right Israeli politicians and criticized their political stances. seek the death penalty For Hamas members, it was condemned as an intimidatory effort to negotiate the release of their loved ones.

In the US, nearly 300,000 people gather to support Israel in its war against Hamas on the National Mall, rally secures the release of hostages and calls for Israel to enter into a ceasefire with Hamas until the kidnapped people are released Focused on rejecting and supporting. .

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