After the expected release of women and children hostages held by Hamas begins, attention will turn to other groups held in the Gaza Strip who are expected to find it more difficult to negotiate their release, sources say.
Women and children have been the first priority to be freed and, if that is successful, there will be men, Israeli soldiers and the remains of the dead left behind: whether bodies taken to Gaza on October 7 or those who were killed afterwards.
There are believed to be 236 hostages held in Gaza. The 50 expected to be released in the first phase are Israeli women and children, some of whom also have nationalities other than Israeli.
A source familiar with the negotiations said American and Israeli officials considered elderly men to be the next category of people who would be easiest to remove from Gaza, followed by foreign men.
Both female and male soldiers were considered the most difficult to negotiate out of Gaza, the source added. Additionally, the parties would also need to work to recover the bodies of those killed that Hamas is believed to be holding.
Negotiation for those categories has not yet begun in earnest, the source said.
As a result of the complexity for the remaining hostages, another source familiar with the discussions confirmed that the others have not been part of the immediate talks and are therefore on something of a separate path.
Another factor complicating the case of many of those who would remain, the person added, is that they are not in Hamas custody but with other groups and individuals.
Israeli soldiers taken hostage could give Hamas enormous leverage in negotiations. In 2011, Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was exchanged for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners after years of negotiations.
Following mandatory Israeli military service for both men and women, most Israelis become reservists and, according to a person familiar with the talks, Hamas had initially wanted to consider female hostages under 45 as soldiers as well.
Israel refused; another source familiar with the discussions said both sides ended up agreeing that only those women in uniform when they were kidnapped will be considered soldiers.
In addition to the Israelis, there are kidnapped citizens of other countries, such as Thailand and Nepal, whose countries have been in contact with Qatar since Qatari mediators have been the main point of contact with Hamas, says a person familiar with the discussions.
The Israeli military released security video from Gaza’s Al Shifa hospital that it said showed Hamas militants carrying a Thai hostage and a Nepali hostage to the hospital, one of them bleeding on a stretcher.