At least 42 Israeli hostages  believed to be dead: IDF

The Israeli military has confirmed the death of a soldier held hostage by Palestinian fighters in the Gaza Strip for nearly nine months since Hamas’s October 7 attack. It brings the number of captives believed to be dead to 42.

Sgt. Maj. Mohammad Alatrash, 39, was killed on October 7 and his body is being held by Hamas, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced in a statement on Monday.

This brings the number of hostages believed to be dead from October 7 to 42.

The Hostages and Missing Families forum mourned Alatrash in a statement and announced it will stand by his family until his remains are returned to Israel.

The armed wing of the Palestinian group captured 251 people in the October 7 attack on southern Israel, in which 1,200 people were killed, triggering a bloody nine-month offensive by the regime.

The Israeli army freed four captives earlier this month, bringing the total number of those released or rescued to 116. The bodies of 19 hostages have been returned to Israel.

Another 116 people were being held in Gaza, but many of those are now believed to be dead, the Wall Street Journal has recently reported. The publication has cited mediators in the hostage negotiation and a US official familiar with the latest intelligence as saying the number of those hostages still living could be as low as 50.

However, the safe return of those survivors “may be at odds” with Israel’s goal of destroying Hamas, the WSJ wrote.

Ceasefire talks brokered by the US, Egypt and Qatar have not yet brought an agreement between the warring parties.

Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh has stated that he wants a deal that would end the fighting in besieged enclave and lead to an exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. Such an accord would also require all Israeli soldiers to withdraw from the Palestinian enclave.

The Hamas stance is consistent with the ceasefire principles put forward by US President Joe Biden, who announced the three-phase proposal late last month, and a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for the plan to be implemented.

The Israeli insists that it will continue its offensive in Gaza until it destroys Hamas. The death toll in the blockaded enclave is nearing 37,600, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

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