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Israel lowers number of requested hostages to 33 on news of deaths in captivity – NYT

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Israel is requesting the release of women, children, elderly men, and ill or wounded captives in the first phase of the deal.

By Vered Weiss, World Israel News

Israel has lowered the number of hostages it has requested to be freed in the updated framework deal from 40 to 33 on news that some of the hostages who were on the previous list have died in captivity, according to an exclusive report in the New York Times. 

In the latest version of the hostage release agreement, Israel is requesting the release of women, children, elderly men, and ill or wounded captives in the first phase of the agreement, during which Israel will pause fighting and release Palestinian prisoners.

The second phase of the deal will be characterized by a “sustainable peaceful recovery,” which is the closest Israel has come to promising a ceasefire, the release of the remaining hostages as well as additional Palestinian prisoners.

There has been significant disagreement over how many hostages Hamas is willing to release, and at one point in previous negotiations, the terror group committed to freeing only 20.

Although preparations are being made for the departure of a delegation of Mossad and Shin Bet officials to Cairo, they will not depart without a signal that Yahya Sinwar, the October 7th mastermind who has been holding up potential hostage deals, indicates he may agree to the current proposal.

The cause of the ongoing stalemate in hostage negotiations is Hamas’s demand for nothing less than a permanent ceasefire and Israel’s insisting on only a temporary pause in fighting.

A senior Israeli official told Ynet, “A deal can only be reached if Hamas gives up its demand for the end of the war and the withdrawal of the IDF from Gaza.”

They added, “We learned that Sinwar is dragging his feet and does not want a deal, except for a ceasefire, and therefore we are continuing with full force the preparations for Rafah.”

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz said on Saturday that an imminent military operation in Rafah would be suspended if a hostage release deal is secured, calling it the top priority to free the remaining abductees taken by Hamas on Oct. 7.

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