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Insights from The New York Times, Haaretz, Foreign Affairs, and Atlantic Council
At least 31 of the remaining 136 hostages being held by Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza are dead, an Israeli military spokesman confirmed Tuesday.
The IDF said that most of the victims were killed on Oct. 7 and that families of the deceased have been informed. Officials believe that at least 20 other hostages may have also been killed, The New York Times reported.
News of the deaths came as Qatar said it had received a “positive” response from Hamas regarding a new hostage deal brokered by the United States, Qatar, and Egypt.
“The reply includes some comments, but in general it is positive,” Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani told reporters Tuesday, according to Al-Monitor.
Hostage deaths could further weaken support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
News of the deaths will likely “worsen a furor” in the country, The New York Times reported, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet face intense backlash for prolonging their military campaign in Gaza, which opponents of the strategy say puts hostages’ lives at risk. Netanyahu appears to be in “no hurry” to push the new hostage release deal forward, argued Israeli journalist Amos Harel in a column in Haaretz, highlighting a tentative plan that would see Israel pause fighting and release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for an unspecified number of Israeli hostages to be freed in phases. “Carrying out the deal’s later stages will create a political difficulty for [Netanyahu] in the hard-right part of his government and among some of his voters,” Harel wrote, adding that: “His survival method is based on scattering contradictory promises and always keeping his intentions obscure.”
Arab countries have banded together on a peace deal that would include hostages’ release
With Washington appearing to have little influence over Israel’s military campaign, Middle Eastern powers – including several that were “previously at odds” – are responding to the ongoing conflict “with impressive unity, coordination, and planning,” wrote two Middle East experts in Foreign Affairs – saying this could translate into stronger regional security arrangements, with or without U.S. leadership.
While policies towards Israel and the Palestinians diverged before the Oct. 7 attacks, regional governments are now mostly aligned on their demands, which include an immediate ceasefire, aid and humanitarian access to Gaza, opposition to the transfer of Palestinians out of the enclave, and supporting talks to free Israeli hostages in return for an end to hostilities, Dalia Dassa Kaye and Sanam Vakil wrote.
Even if Israel can eradicate Hamas, the country “won’t ever be secure without a regional security agreement and expanded normalization with their Arab neighbors,” argued Frederick Kempe, the Atlantic Council president.