What to know about the hostages still in Gaza

Israelis breathed a brief collective sigh of relief on Saturday when the army announced it had rescued four hostages held in Gaza for eight months after they were captured in the Oct. 7 attack led by Hamas.

The four hostages were taken at the Nova music festival on October 7 and were rescued during an operation in the central Gaza town of Nuseirat on Saturday morning. The mission resulted in the deaths of dozens of Palestinians, including women and children. News of the rescue has raised renewed questions about the fate of those who remain in captivity and the proposed ceasefire agreement.

How many hostages are still held in Gaza?

Around 120 prisoners remain in Gaza. The Israeli army confirmed that at least 30 of them died.

Earlier this month, the Israeli army informed the families of four hostages that they had died and that their bodies were being held by Hamas. In May, the military recovered the bodies of nine hostages, and the families of two captured Thai citizens were informed that their bodies were still being held in Gaza.

Will Israel undertake further rescue operations?

Dozens of proposed rescue missions were not carried out for fear that hostages or soldiers would lose their lives in the process, according to Israeli defense officials.

Israeli troops managed to rescue only seven living hostages in three separate military operations. In December, Israeli troops accidentally shot and killed three hostages in Gaza who were trying to escape to safety.

How did Hamas respond to the operation?

In a statement on social media, Abu Obaida, military spokesman for the Al-Qassam Brigades, accused Israel of “a complex war crime” and said the rescue operation had endangered the remaining hostages and would “impact negative about their conditions and lives.”

What do the families of the hostages say?

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum, which represents families of prisoners, held a rally Saturday in Tel Aviv, as it has done throughout the war. The rally attracted thousands of people to celebrate the rescue operation. But the group stressed the urgency of bringing home all remaining prisoners in Gaza.

“The joyful news of Shlomi, Noa, Almog and Andrey returning home to their families through a military operation reminds us that, for 36 weeks, 120 hostages have been waiting to return home,” the group said in a statement referring to the names of the freed prisoners and pushing for the acceptance of a proposed ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas that would bring the remaining hostages home.

What's happening with the proposed ceasefire agreement?

President Biden in late May outlined a road map for a three-phase plan that would begin with an immediate and temporary ceasefire and work toward a permanent end to the war and reconstruction of Gaza.

In the first phase, both sides will observe a six-week ceasefire, Israel will withdraw from the main population centers of Gaza and a number of hostages will be released, including women, the elderly and the wounded.

Israel and Hamas will continue to negotiate to reach a permanent ceasefire. If successful, the deal would enter phase two, with the full withdrawal of the Israeli army from the enclave.

All hostages and many other Palestinian prisoners would be released. In phase three, Hamas would return the bodies of the dead hostages and a period of reconstruction would begin in Gaza, supported by the United States, European countries and international institutions.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces conflicting pressure from the United States and other allies to end the war and from two far-right partners in his governing coalition who have threatened to topple his government if Israel were to accept a deal that would end the war. war without eliminating Hamas.

Hamas had previously said it would respond “positively” to the plan, but had informed mediators that the group would not approve an agreement that did not include a path to a permanent ceasefire, a full withdrawal of Israeli troops and a “serious and genuine deal” to exchange Palestinian prisoners for hostages.

It is unclear what effect the latest hostage rescue operation will have on settlement negotiations.

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