20% of Israeli captives in Gaza ‘are dead’: Report

The Israeli military has concluded that over one fifth of the Israeli hostages still being held in Gaza are dead, according to a report by the New York Times daily.

At least 32 of 136 captives in the besieged enclave have died since the war began on 7 October, the report stated, citing a confidential internal assessment by Israeli intelligence officers.

The families of the 32 confirmed dead Israeli captives have been informed, according to several military sources who spoke to the newspaper.

Officers are also reviewing unconfirmed intelligence reports that 20 others may also have been killed.

Around half of 240 captives taken on 7 October were released as part of a prisoner exchange deal in November.

Several families of remaining captives have protested against Israel’s war on Gaza, claiming that it has put the lives of their loved ones in danger.

The issue of how far Israel should go to ensure the safe release of hostages remains a divisive one in Israel.

Many hardliners believe that the war should go on irrespective of what happens to those captured, while families of those being held in Gaza argue that the Benjamin Netanyahu government should agree to a full prisoner exchange with Palestinian groups.

This would involve the release of all Palestinians being held by Israel and all Israeli hostages being held by Hamas and other groups.

Additionally, Palestinian groups want a permanent ceasefire to follow any release of the hostages and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu has insisted that Israeli military operations will not stop until Hamas is eliminated – a goal military observers say it is still far from achieving.

Negotiations, with Qatar and Egypt acting as mediators, have been taking place to end the impasse although no concrete agreement has been made.

In December, Israeli soldiers shot and killed three Israeli captives in Gaza who at the time were shirtless and held white flags, an initial probe by the military found.

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