Shin Bet denies telling British tabloid only 40 hostages in Gaza still alive

Daily Mail claims intel shows majority of captives dead, but security agency says numbers ‘based on writer’s opinion’; Israel has said 34 of remaining 129 abductees no longer alive

People walk by photographs of Israeli civilians held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, in Tel Aviv, April 9, 2023. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
People walk by photographs of Israeli civilians held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, in Tel Aviv, April 9, 2023. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Shin Bet security service denied a British report Sunday that claimed fewer than a third of the hostages remaining in Gaza are still alive.

The British Daily Mail tabloid reported early Sunday that all but 40 of the 129 hostages taken from Israel on October 7 were dead, citing anonymous sources and “intelligence gathered by Shin Bet.”

“The publication in question is not true and does not represent the opinion of the Shin Bet,” the security agency responded later in the day. “The numbers mentioned in the article are based on the writer’s opinion only and are not based on information from the Shin Bet.”

The report claimed that Israel had been able to gather more information about the situation of the hostages since entering Gaza.

“‘[Intelligence] is much easier to access than before October 7 when we had limited access to Gaza and we didn’t have a lot of possibilities of sources,” it quoted an anonymous source saying.

The IDF has officially confirmed the deaths of 34 of those kidnapped on October 7 and still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza. However, privately Israeli and US officials have said the number of dead may be much higher.

Hamas-led terrorists kidnapped 253 people on October 7 during a brutal onslaught into southern Israel in which 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed.

Israel responded with a military offensive to topple the Hamas regime in Gaza, destroy the terror group and free the hostages.

Freed Israeli hostages pictured in Egypt after their release from Hamas captivity in Gaza, November 29, 2023 (Screenshot)

A truce deal in November saw the release of 105 hostages, and a handful of others were freed by the military or let go separately. The bodies of 12 hostages have also been recovered, including three mistakenly killed by the military.

It is believed that 129 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza, including those killed, along with two civilians held since 2014 and 2015, and the remains of two soldiers killed in the Strip almost a decade ago.

Among those still held are children who were as young as nine months when kidnapped, elderly men and sick and infirm hostages.

Several attempts at a hostage release deal brokered by the US, Egypt and Qatar have failed to reach any breakthrough, with the sides at loggerheads over demands to end the war, withdraw troops, and the identity and number of Palestinian prisoners Hamas demands be released in exchange for the hostages’ freedom.

Families of the hostages and other advocates have pressed the government to do more to reach a deal, warning that time is running out for those still in captivity.

Those who have been released have described “hellish” conditions, with abductees dealing with the constant fear of rape, torture or death at the hands of their captors, or by starvation or Israeli bombing raids.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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