More than a fifth of the remaining hostages being held in Gaza are dead, according to an internal assessment conducted by the Israeli military.
Israeli intelligence officers have concluded that at least 32 of the remaining 136 hostages captured by Hamas and its allies on Oct. 7 have died since the start of the war, according to a confidential assessment that was reviewed by The New York Times. The families of the 32 hostages whose deaths are confirmed have been informed, according to four military officials who spoke anonymously in order to discuss a sensitive matter.
The four officials said that officers were also assessing unconfirmed intelligence that indicated that at least 20 other hostages may have also been killed.
The figure of 32 is higher than any previous number the Israeli authorities have publicly disclosed of hostages who are dead. In an answer to a request for comment, the Israeli military said that most of the dead were killed on Oct. 7.
The news is likely to worsen a furor in Israel, where a debate over the government’s course of action in Gaza regarding the hostages has become divisive.
More than 240 hostages were captured by Hamas and its allies during the Oct. 7 Hamas-led raid on southern Israel, prompting Israel to retaliate with massive airstrikes and then a ground invasion.
Roughly half of the hostages have been freed, almost all during a temporary truce in November, when they were exchanged for 240 Palestinian prisoners and detainees held in Israeli jails.
Since that truce, the Israeli government has said that its military operations in Gaza would pave the way to further hostage releases. Officials have argued that every Israeli military success places Hamas under more pressure to negotiate another exchange, and makes the military better able to rescue the remaining captives by force.
But scores of survivors and families of the hostages have said that the military campaign is endangering their loved ones’ lives. They want the government to make it a priority to reach a new hostage deal instead of pressing ahead with the invasion, lest their relatives be killed in crossfire. Only one hostage has been freed by an Israeli military rescue operation. At least three were accidentally killed by Israeli soldiers.
Asked for comment, the Israeli military said in a statement that it was “deploying all available resources to locate and retrieve as much information as possible regarding the hostages currently held by Hamas.”