Israel’s chief military spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, said Tuesday that 31 of the remaining hostages held in Gaza had been declared dead.
“We have informed 31 families that their captured relatives are no longer among the living and that we have declared them dead,” he told a regular press briefing.
Israel said 136 hostages were still being held in Gaza.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pushed for progress on a hostage ceasefire deal and met on Tuesday with the leaders of Egypt and Qatar – key US allies who often serve as mediators between Israel and Hamas.
Qatar’s prime minister said Thursday that Hamas had given a “generally positive” response to the latest Gaza ceasefire plan, but the Palestinian militant group said it was still seeking a ceasefire. complete and comprehensive” to end the “aggression against our people.” Israel has ruled out the type of permanent ceasefire sought by Hamas.
The White House said Tuesday that Hamas’ position on the proposal to release remaining Israeli hostages for an extended break in fighting was still “not final.”
“I would say the negotiating efforts are still ongoing,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said. “We’re not at the point where we have a final decision.”
Kirby also suggested that a current impasse with House Republicans over a $118 billion supplemental bill that would include funding for Ukraine, Israel and border security could impact the defense of Israel.
“We know that air defense capabilities are a critical need for the Israelis as rockets continue to be launched against them and targets in Israel and they have expended a large amount of air defense munitions,” he said. Kirby said. “We need to do more to help them replenish their stocks.”
‘Some movement’ on deal, Biden says
US President Joe Biden acknowledged on Tuesday that Hamas had responded to the offer to release remaining hostages held in Gaza in exchange for an extended pause in fighting.
“There has been movement, there has been a response from Hamas,” Biden said when asked by reporters about a possible ceasefire agreement. “But that seems a bit far-fetched. We don’t know where that is. Negotiations are continuing.”
This is Blinken’s fifth visit to the Middle East since the outbreak of war in Gaza following attacks by Hamas on October 7, in which around 1,200 people were killed and around 250 taken hostage.
The Israeli offensive has ravaged much of the densely populated Gaza Strip and killed 27,478 Palestinians, according to the territory’s health officials. Rights groups have accused Israel of using disproportionate force.
More than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents are now crowded into the town of Rafah on the border with Egypt and surrounding areas, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Tuesday .
A quarter of Gaza’s residents are starving and 85 percent of the population has been driven from their homes, while hundreds of thousands survive in makeshift tent camps.
Israeli protesters block aid to Gaza
Israeli protesters have once again blocked humanitarian aid to Gaza despite the army declaring a closed zone around the main crossing.
Protesters say no more aid should enter Gaza until hostages still held by Hamas are released.
Last week, protesters blocked the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza for several days.
Humanitarian groups say that even when the crossing is fully operational, the amount of aid coming in is insufficient to address the humanitarian catastrophe caused by nearly four months of war. UN officials say one in four Palestinians in Gaza are starving.
Israel’s military body responsible for civil affairs in the Palestinian territories said more than 120 trucks were able to enter before protesters blocked the way.
On Monday, 159 trucks passed through Kerem Shalom and another 74 entered via the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza. Before the war, an average of 500 trucks entered Gaza daily.