What to know about the hostages still held by Hamas

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TEL AVIV, Israel – Ever since a temporary cease-fire with Hamas began last week, heartbreaking scenes of Israeli hostages being freed and tearfully reunited with loved ones have dominated the news in Israel.

So far under that cease-fire, Israel has released more than 80 of the roughly 240 hostages taken by Hamas in an Oct. 7 attack on Israel, Israel said. More are expected to arrive on Tuesday after Israel released 150 Palestinian prisoners in response.

Of the 61 Israelis freed so far, almost all are women and minors. In addition, foreign workers – mostly Thai – were released under a separate agreement.

About 160 hostages are still being held. Perhaps 100 are Israeli civilians. Among the rest are soldiers captured when Hamas stormed military bases in Israel. They can last forever. There are also dual Israeli-American citizens – possibly including some soldiers, such as the US

Israel’s offensive has killed at least 13,300 people in Gaza since the start of the conflict, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry. Hospitals lost electricity. There are shortages of food, water and fuel. The United Nations says three-quarters of Gaza’s 2.2 million people have been displaced by the conflict.

Here’s what you need to know about who’s still being held hostage, and some potential pitfalls for releasing more.

Who are the hostages held by Hamas?

/ Stringer / Anadolu via Getty Images


Stringer/Anadolu via Getty Images

Hamas On November 27, 11 Israeli hostages were handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Israeli civilians and foreigners — American citizens and more than two dozen Thai farm workers — were among those arrested in an Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel, according to the Israeli military. Israeli officials say the attack killed 1,200 people.

A large number of Israeli soldiers were also arrested. Haaretz The newspaper quoted an army spokesman as saying on the day of the Hamas attack. The Israeli army did not say how many soldiers were captured.

The hostages freed so far are mainly Israeli women and teenagers, as well as a Filipino, one Russian-Israeli and 19 Thais, mostly men.

The Israelis said they had lost weight during their seven-week detention and were mostly subsisting on bread and rice and sleeping in chairs. Many of them are trapped underground.

On Sunday, 4-year-old Abigail Mor Edan, a dual citizen of the United States and Israel, was among those released. US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the Biden administration believes eight or nine more Americans are still in custody, but the US “doesn’t have hard information on any of them”.

An Israeli captive, an 84-year-old woman, was released on Sunday. He was flying directly from Gaza by helicopter. Israeli media reported that he was admitted to an Israeli hospital due to serious health problems.

Last month, four hostages were released before a temporary cease-fire, when Hamas released two American citizens and two Israeli women.

What is the story of the kidnapping of Hamas?

Hamas has a history of engaging in hostage situations.

In the year In 2006, Hamas kidnapped an Israeli soldier. Gilad ShalitAfter holding him for more than 5 years in the Gaza Strip, he finally handed him over in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian and Israeli Arab prisoners.

The current Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, was also in power. Dennis Jett, retired US ambassador He told NPR last month A high price could be demanded for a high-value Israeli hostage, saying, “I will not lose to Hamas.”

In the year In 2007, BBC journalist Alan Johnston revealed that he was kidnapped by the Gaza jihadist group Islamic State and held captive for four months. “Unfortunate Experience” Before he helped get Hamas released.

How are decisions made on how many hostages and prisoners to release?

Every day Hamas releases a list of hostages it is willing to release and Israel does the same with Palestinian prisoners. Under the terms of the interim ceasefire, Israel will release three Palestinians for every hostage Hamas frees.

Speaking NPR Morning Edition“It’s not known why they arrived at this particular ratio, but it’s clear … Hamas was asking for a lot more,” said Shibley Telhami, a professor of peace and development at the University of Maryland.

“In past exchanges, the ratio was huge – for one Israeli soldier there were hundreds of Palestinian prisoners,” Telhami said. “Remember it is very easy for Israelis to arrest Palestinians, they are under occupation, Israel has an army. They can go into any town or village and arrest anyone at any time.”

All of the prisoners released so far are women or minors, many of whom were accused of throwing stones or Molotov cocktails at soldiers. Human rights groups have criticized Israel for routinely arresting minors — often hundreds — and holding people without charge for months or longer.

A Palestinian female prisoner hugs a relative in the occupied West Bank after being released from an Israeli prison in exchange for Israeli hostages released by Hamas from the Gaza Strip on November 28.

Fadel Senna/AFP via Getty Images


AFP via Getty Images

A Palestinian female prisoner hugs a relative in the occupied West Bank after being released from an Israeli prison in exchange for Israeli hostages released by Hamas from the Gaza Strip on November 28.

Harel Chorev, a senior researcher at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle East and African Studies, says of those released so far, “most are lone wolves” who tried to carry out some kind of attack but failed. ”

Going forward, Cherov says, Hamas wants the release of high-profile prisoners and Israel wants the return of high-value hostages.

According to Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, there are 8,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, including 3,200 arrested since October 7. This number includes 250 Palestinian children and 2,200 prisoners held in administrative detention without charge. arrest

How can a temporary ceasefire complicate the release of more hostages and prisoners?

As the hostage pool dwindles, Hamas may demand more prisoners or higher-value hostages — either in the current deal or in a future peace deal.

CIA Director William Burns arrived in Doha on Tuesday for talks with Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani and Israel’s Mossad chief of intelligence, David Barnea.

The meeting in Qatar, Key broker As the temporary ceasefire began, it focused on securing the release of more hostages, in part to expand the lull in the fighting.

Barghouti said the 2011 release of Gilad Shalit by Hamas led to the return of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. Now it is only natural that 8,000 Palestinian prisoners will be released instead of the remaining Hamas captives. [because] Many of these are civilians who have never faced any charges or legal proceedings.

However, it is highly unlikely that Israel would agree to such a deal.

Copyright 2023 NPR. Visit https://www.npr.org to see more.

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