Hamas admits it doesn’t know how many hostages are still alive

Hamas official Osama Hamdan said he had no idea how many Israeli hostages were still alive
Hamas official Osama Hamdan said he had no idea how many Israeli hostages were still alive - MOHAMED AZAKIR/REUTERS

A senior Hamas official has admitted the terrorist group has no idea how many of Israel’s remaining 120 hostages in Gaza are alive or dead.

Osama Hamdan, a Hamas spokesman and political bureau member, told CNN that “no one has an idea” how many of the hostages are still alive, and said that any deal to release them must include guarantees of a permanent ceasefire and the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces.

The limited release of Israeli hostages is a crucial part of a three-part ceasefire plan that international brokers including the United States, Qatar and Egypt are trying to help negotiate between Hamas and Israel.

The fate of the hostages who were seized by terrorists and taken to Gaza on Oct 7 has become one of the most pressing and emotive domestic political issues for Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, who is facing mounting calls from the public to do more.

A total of 251 were kidnapped, and 105 were released during a week-long truce in November. Seven have been rescued from captivity by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), including four last weekend.

Among them was Noa Argamani, 26, who was seen in a viral video on Oct 7 pleading for her life while being snatched on a motorbike from the Nova music festival.

Hostages rescued

On Thursday, the commando who led the team who rescued her said her first words were: “Is my mother alive?” Ms Argamani was reunited with her mother, who has terminal brain cancer, later that day.

Another hostage who was freed revealed he was held with Guy Gilboa-Dalal – also captured at the Nova festival – a few months ago, providing the first sign of life for his family.

While the rescue lifted Israel’s morale, it also increased public demands for a quick recovery of the hostages, amid further revelations of their physical and mental abuse in captivity.

Following the raid, the IDF said a negotiated deal would be the best way to release the bulk of the remaining hostages.

However, the current truce deal has stalled over “unworkable” amendments made by Hamas earlier this week.

In his CNN interview in Beirut, Hamdan said the proposal on the table did not meet the group’s demands for an end to the war.

He said Hamas needed “a clear position from Israel to accept the ceasefire, a complete withdrawal from Gaza, and let the Palestinians … determine their future by themselves, the reconstruction, the [lifting] of the siege … and we are ready to talk about a fair deal about the prisoners exchange.”

Speaking to reporters at the G7 summit in Italy on Thursday, Joe Biden, the US president, said he did not believe a deal was imminent but added: “I haven’t lost hope.”