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EDITORIAL: Info on hostages ‘valuable,’ can’t be given for ‘free’

Iran’s attack on Israel and the failed attempt by GOP backbenchers to scuttle a foreign aid package have dominated recent news on the Middle East. But such reports overshadow an ominous development in the Jewish state’s fight against terror: Hamas officials don’t know how many of the hostages they seized during the barbaric Oct. 7 attack that started the current war remain alive.

This bit of information slipped out last month during talks between Israel and Hamas over a proposed cessation of hostilities. International negotiators have pressured Israel to agree to a six-week cease-fire and to release hundreds of Palestinians convicted of various crimes by the nation’s courts. In return, Hamas would free 40 hostages — primarily, women, the sick and the elderly.

That hardly amounts to an even deal. The cease-fire would allow the terror group to rearm and reconfigure itself to continue its quest of Israel’s destruction another day. The “prisoner” exchange is heavily lopsided in favor of the terrorists. But it appears Hamas would be unable to meet even those meager obligations.

Earlier this month, an Israeli official told The New York Times his nation had been told “that Hamas did not have 40 living hostages in Gaza who met the criteria for an exchange.” The news “raised fears,” the Times reported, “that more hostages might be dead than previously believed.”

The Times notes that Israel officials believe about 130 captives remain in Gaza, “and Israeli intelligence officers have concluded that at least 30 of those have died in captivity.” Six American citizens remain captive — if they’re still alive.

Hamas terrorists kidnapped 253 civilian men, women and children during their murderous rampage six months ago. A brief cease-fire in December led to the release of 105 prisoners and the Israeli Defense Forces have rescued three hostages. Hamas released four more unilaterally.

During a March interview with the BBC, an Hamas official said the group has “asked for a ceasefire to collect that data” on which hostages are alive and where, the Jerusalem Post reported. The official added that information on the hostages was “valuable” and could not be given “for free.”

This is what deluded Hamas sympathizers defend. A group purporting to be a legitimate government authority that seeks permanent war against Israel, engages in indiscriminate slaughter, intentionally kidnaps innocent civilians to use as leverage and purposely puts its own people in harm’s way to create propaganda opportunities. And critics of Israel dare accuse the nation of “war crimes”? That’s willfully blind and absurd even for a college campus.

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