October 29, 2023 | Flash Brief

Hamas Demands Release of Terrorists in Exchange for Israeli Hostages

October 29, 2023 | Flash Brief

Hamas Demands Release of Terrorists in Exchange for Israeli Hostages

Latest Developments

Hamas said on October 28 that it seeks the release of thousands of Palestinians in Israeli prisons in exchange for the freedom of hostages the terrorist organization seized on Ocober 7. The jailed Palestinians include detainees convicted in Israeli courts of committing a range of crimes, including terrorism. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that his government was discussing the issue but declined to give further details. The Israeli government has said that Hamas must release the hostages unconditionally. Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, a spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), said the terrorist group’s statement constitutes “psychological terror cynically used by Hamas to create pressure.”

Qatar, a main financial supporter of Hamas, has played a role as an intermediary in the hostage negotiations. On October 28, Doha’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, in an apparent effort to pressure Israel, announced that the IDF’s stepped-up Gaza offensive is complicating efforts by his government to secure the release of the hostages.

Expert Analysis

“Qatar is coordinating this hostage negotiation with Hamas and Iran to produce maximum benefits for all three. Qatar is a Hamas ally, sponsor, and host — it has no business running a hostage negotiation on anyone’s behalf. The right message from every stakeholder is this: We will hold Qatar accountable for every hostage who doesn’t make it out alive. Then you’ll see results.” — Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

“Netanyahu has stated that returning the hostages is a primary goal of the war, and ground operations increased in Gaza overnight. Israel appears to be pursuing a dual strategy of pursuing the return of the hostages as if there were no war and prosecuting the war as if there were no hostages.” — Enia Krivine, Senior Director of FDD’s Israel Program and National Security Network

Families of Hostages Meet Netanyahu

Families of Israeli hostages met with Netanyahu on October 28 and called for the release of all Hamas prisoners in Israeli jails in exchange for the hostages. At a press conference following the meeting, Netanyahu said that his government is dealing with the hostage issue as “an integral part of the war’s aims.” On October 27, a senior Israeli government official told The Times of Israel that Hamas was trying to delay an Israeli ground offensive by dragging out hostage negotiations.

The Hostages: About 230 Held, Four Released, Over Half Are Citizens of Other Countries

As of October 27, the IDF had notified the families of about 230 hostages that their loved ones were being held. Two hostages, U.S. citizens Judith and Natalie Raanan, were released on October 20. Israeli citizens Nurit Cooper and Yocheved Lifshitz were released three days later. Among the hostages are about 30 children, including several three years of age or younger.

According to the Israeli government, more than half of the hostages (138) are citizens of other countries, including Thailand (54), Argentina (15), Germany (12), France (6), Russia (6), and the United States (12). Some have dual citizenship. On October 27, Russian media quoted Hamas officials visiting Moscow as saying that Hamas considers all of its hostages to be Israeli.

  • Related Analysis

Ex-Hostage Recounts Hamas Mass-Kidnapping Tactics,” FDD Flash Brief

Hamas Releases Two American Hostages,” FDD Flash Brief

Hamas Takes Israelis and Foreign Nationals Hostage,” FDD Flash Brief


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