In October last year, UN General Secretary António Guterres said Hamas's hostages "should not become bargaining chips". As a new ceasefire deal edges closer, those hostages have remained resolutely on the negotiating table. Yet hopes for the safe return of all of them have now all but faded, after a leaked report suggested 31 are dead, with serious fears for at least 20 more reports The Week.
Thirty-one of the more than 130 hostages still held captive by Hamas are dead, according to a report released on the eve of the fourth month of the war in Gaza.
The news initially emerged from a confidential internal Israeli review leaked to the New York Times. The figure was later confirmed by the Hostage and Missing Families Forum, which represents families of the captives. "According to the official data we have, there are 31 victims", it said in a statement.
The disclosure that so many of the remaining hostages may be dead "seems certain to intensify scrutiny" of Benjamin Netanyahu's government, said The Guardian. The Israeli prime minister is under "increasing pressure" to reach a deal to return the remaining captives, The Telegraph said.
Hopes remain high that some of the remaining hostages may be released in a deal being brokered by Qatar. The country's prime minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, said Hamas had given a "generally positive" response to a ceasefire plan that would see an exchange of Palestinian prisoners for the return of more hostages. Families of some of the remaining captives rallied in central Tel Aviv yesterday evening holding posters reading "No victory without the return of hostages".