Israel has said that more than 100 hostages were still being held captive in Gaza by Hamas and other militant groups after last month’s hostages-for-prisoners exchange.
Ismail Haniyeh, the top political leader of Hamas, made a rare visit to Cairo on Wednesday to discuss the war with mediators, a sign that the two sides might be inching toward a new agreement after the collapse of a weeklong cease-fire earlier this month.
Here is what we know about the captives.
Who are the remaining hostages?
Of the 129 people that Israel says are still be held hostage, 21 are believed to be dead. Israel counts the dead in its total hostage figures.
Most of the remaining hostages are men, but the prime minister’s office said 19 women and two children were still believed to be held. They include Shiri Bibas, 32 and her two sons, Ariel Bibas, 4; and Kfir Bibas, less than a year old. Hamas’s armed wing, the Al Qassam Brigades, claimed the three had been killed in Israeli airstrikes, but Israel has not confirmed that.
All but 11 of the current hostages are Israeli or dual nationals with Israeli citizenship — the others are Thai, Nepalese, Tanzanian and one is a dual French and Mexican citizen.
Who has been released?
Hamas has released hostages in several batches. In total, 110 have come home alive, while 11 bodies have been recovered, according to the Israeli prime minister’s office, including three men who were mistakenly shot by the Israeli military on Friday. Most of the released hostages have been Israeli citizens.
In exchange, Israel has released 240 Palestinians that it had imprisoned or detained.
Why did the talks stall?
Israel resumed its bombardment of the Gaza Strip on Dec. 1 after both sides failed to reach an agreement over the remaining hostages.
On Wednesday, negotiators seemed to be inching closer to a new agreement. Mr. Haniyeh, the Hamas leader, arrived in Cairo to hold talks with Egyptian officials about a possible truce. Israel and Hamas were attempting, through mediators from Qatar and Egypt, to discuss a new cease-fire deal that would include the release of more hostages, according to an official familiar with the talks. An Israeli official said initial steps had been made in the negotiations, but emphasized there was no deal yet.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces rising pressure from abroad to slow down the pace of the fighting or even establish a lasting cease-fire in Gaza soon. At the same time, the families of Israelis held hostage have made increasingly desperate pleas for him to reach a deal to bring their loved ones home.
Nearly 20,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Gaza health ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants but has said that 70 percent of the dead are women and children.
The United States, which gives Israel billions of dollars in military aid every year, maintains that it supports Israel’s right to defend itself, but is increasingly sharpening its tone, urging Mr. Netanyahu to do everything he can to protect civilian life.
What are the families of the remaining hostages saying?
Many of the families of hostages have been protesting to demand a deal to free the hostages, even if that means a cease-fire or freeing Palestinian prisoners. Weekly demonstrations near the main military headquarters in Tel Aviv regularly draw a crowd of thousands. Last month, thousands of demonstrators marched for five days, from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, to demand that Mr. Netanyahu do whatever it takes to bring their relatives home.
The mistaken shooting deaths of the three hostages on Friday inflamed tensions between the families and the government. Avi Shamriz, the father of one of the three men, told NBC News that Mr. Netanyahu’s leadership had “murdered my son twice.” Reports that the Israeli government had received information about Hamas’s plans to attack more than a year earlier were seen as a significant intelligence failure.
On Wednesday, Israel’s government press office issued a statement from the mother of one of the three hostages who was mistakenly killed, Yotam Haim. Iris Haim said that, “as painful as it is to say, and as sad as it is” the shooting of her son was “likely the right thing to do at that moment.”
“None of us are judging you or angry with you,” she said, directly addressing the battalion involved in the shooting. “Not me; not my husband, Raviv; not my daughter, Noya; not Yotam, of blessed memory; and not Tuval, Yotam’s brother.”
On Tuesday, Mr. Netanyahu met with representatives of more than a dozen families of the hostages in Tel Aviv, where he vowed to work to bring them all home.
“We are committed, I am personally committed, to the release of all the hostages,” Mr. Netanyahu said, according to a statement sent by his office. “Rescuing them is a supreme task.”