Israeli Hostages Update

On January 31, 2024, a senior Hamas official said they would respond to a deal that would extend the pause in fighting between Israel and Gaza, and bring phased exchanges between Hamas-held hostages and Palestinians imprisoned in Israel within a 6-week period. (AP News.) This news comes following the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) announcement that they are scaling back their offense in Gaza to minimize civilian casualties in hopes of defeating Hamas and releasing hostages in a safe and peaceful manner. The Times of Israel reported that a senior Israeli official who spoke with NBC said that there were “strong indications” a deal would move ahead, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (he/him, Likud) has issued caution on these deals given the rising coalition rifts (Reuters). Just a few days ago, the prime minister refused calls for ceasefire from Hamas immediately after speaking with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (he/him), dealing the U.S. a massive blow toward diplomatic progress to peace (Wall Street Journal). According to Axios, while Israel is rejecting most of Hamas’s hostage deal, Netanyahu says that Israel is ready to launch new negotiations based on the original proposal for hostage swap. In recent days, The New York Times reported that at least 36 of the 136 hostages still held in Gaza have been killed, with 20 more potentially dead, according to a military spokesperson (The Times of Israel). Recently, U.S. President Joe Biden (he/him, D) is pressing the Israeli prime minister to continue its negotiations with Gaza leaders to release the hostages while protecting the civilians in Rafah in the process, and criticized Israel’s actions as being “over the top.” Netanyahu announced a military campaign in Rafah, ordering evacuations, which raises concern from other nations and even conservative members of the Israeli Parliament (Washington Post) (NBC News).

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