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NYT: How Israel Scours Gaza for Clues About the Hostages

The New York Times reported on Sunday that Hamas is moving the hostages around from one apartment to another in order to keep their location hidden. Other hostages are believed to be in tunnels.

According to the report, a “fusion cell” was quietly formed in Israel after the October 7th assault, where US and Israeli intelligence and military analysts share imagery from drones and satellites and communications intercepts that may shed light on the hostages’ locations.

However, the chances of additional rescue operations are slight. The location of many of the hostages is unknown. Additionally, Hamas is likely to move any additional hostages being held in apartments into tunnels.

“One must remember that the release of the four hostages is ultimately a tactical achievement that does not change the strategic aspect,” said Avi Kalo, a lieutenant colonel in the Israeli reserves who once led a military intelligence department that dealt with prisoners of war and missing people. “Hamas still has dozens of hostages, the vast majority of whom, if not all, will not be released in operations, but can be rescued only as part of a cease-fire deal.”

Sadly, since October 7th, 43 hostages have been declared dead. Israeli officials think that less than 60 are still alive. US officials say there are five US citizens still alive and three bodies of Americans being held by Hamas.

A small group of hostages are being used as human shields for Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar. According to NYT, Sinwar is believed to be currently hiding under Khan Younis but the tunnel network there is vast and neither the US nor Israel can determine his precise location.

Hamas leaders have ordered their terrorists that in the case of Israeli forces approaching, the first thing they should do is shoot the captives.

The US military has flown surveillance drones over the Gaza Strip since right after the Oct. 7 attack to aid in hostage rescue efforts. The report quoted a senior Israeli official as saying that US and British drones have been able to gather intelligence that Israeli drones cannot collect. Although the US drones have the same sensors as the Israeli and British ones, “the sheer numbers of American aircraft means that more territory can be surveilled more frequently and for longer periods.”

Officials added that although drones can’t map out Hamas’s tunnel network -Israel is using highly classified ground-based sensors to do that – their infrared radar can detect the heat signatures of terrorists or other people going into or out of tunnel entrances on the surface.

Intelligence sharing between the United States and Israel related to the war in Gaza initially focused on hostage-recovery efforts, but over time the collaboration expanded, three current or former senior U.S. officials said.

“They are part of the largest intelligence effort ever conducted in Israel, and probably ever,” Colonel Kalo said of the Americans and the British.

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