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Hamas says seven captives killed in Israeli army bombing of Gaza

Saturday 2,March 2024 {HMC} The military wing of the Palestinian group Hamas says seven more captives held in the Gaza Strip have died as a result of Israel’s bombardment of the besieged enclave.

Abu Obeida, the spokesperson for Hamas’s Qassam Brigades, made the statement on the Telegram app on Friday.

The group said it confirmed the news following investigations conducted over the past few weeks after it had lost contact with the fighters who had been holding the captives.

Hamas seized about 250 Israelis and foreigners during its October 7 attacks on southern Israel, of whom about 130 are believed to still be held captive.

The Qassam Brigades said three of the captives mentioned in Friday’s statement had been identified, but it did not clarify when the seven had died.

The group said the total number of captives killed as a result of Israeli military operations “may have exceeded” 70.

‘Second priority’ for Israel
The deaths of the captives show that Israel’s government considers them a “secondary priority”, Omar Ashour, a professor of security and military studies at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, told Al Jazeera.

“The [Israeli military’s] first priority is to destroy the armed wing of Hamas and the other Palestinian factions, to undermine them in any way, even if it costs the lives of some of the hostages,” Ashour said.

Friday’s reported deaths also indicate that Israel’s war strategy is not achieving its objectives, he said, adding: “We are in the 147th day of the war, and there are more and more hostages dying, the majority of them by Israeli fire.”

During a Qatari-mediated weeklong truce in November, 105 captives were released in exchange for 150 Palestinian women and children held in Israeli prisons.

“The only way to release the hostages safely is the way it was done before – through some sort of negotiations. The Israeli government knows that/ … They just don’t want to admit it,” Ashour said.

Truce talks ongoing
Israel’s war on Gaza has killed at least 30,228 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. The death toll in Israel from the October 7 attacks stands at 1,139.

Egyptian, Qatari and United States mediators are currently scrambling to lock down a new truce.

In telephone talks on Thursday, the three countries’ leaders set out what a ceasefire deal could look like, the White House said.

“The leaders underscored that the release of hostages would result in an immediate and sustained ceasefire in Gaza over a period of at least six weeks,” the White House said.

However, Israel’s Walla news site, citing a senior Israeli official, reported that Israel has told Egypt and Qatar that it will not proceed with ceasefire negotiations until Hamas sends it a list of Israeli captives who remain alive in the Gaza Strip.

The official said Israel is also seeking a “serious answer” from Hamas on the number of Palestinian prisoners it is requesting be released as part of a potential deal, Walla reported.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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