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Daylight operation deep into Gaza frees Israeli captives

In World
June 08, 2024

Four hostages kidnapped by Hamas from the Nova music festival during the 7 October attacks have been rescued in a daylight raid deep in central Gaza.

Noa Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 22, Andrei Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 41, were freed during a “high-risk, complex mission” from two separate buildings in the Nuseirat area, the Israel Defense Forces said.

The IDF said the four are in good medical condition and have been transferred to the ‘Sheba’ Tel-HaShomer Medical Center, where they have been pictured embracing family members.

Many people, including children, have been killed and injured in the area where the operation took place, with images and footage showing significant numbers of casualties.

Hamas claims more than 200 Palestinians were killed in the densely populated area, although the figure is from its media office, not medical sources.

‘Precise intelligence’

The rare rescue of hostages – a joint operation conducted by the IDF, Israel Security Agency and Israel Police – comes eight months into war with Hamas in Gaza.

IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari said the mission was based on “precise” intelligence and that Israeli forces came under fire during the operation.

One special forces officer was wounded in the Gaza hostage rescue and later died in hospital, Israel police said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Israeli forces for operating “creatively and bravely”.

“We will not let up until we complete the mission and return home all the hostages – both those alive and dead,” he added.

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said special forces operated “under heavy fire” when rescuing the four hostages.

“This is one of the most heroic and extraordinary operations I have witnessed over the course of 47 years serving in Israel’s defence establishment,” Mr Gallant said.

 Palestinian man is assisted in the aftermath of an Israeli strike, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir Al-Balah

Hamas says scores of people, including children, were killed and injured in central Gaza [Reuters]

Miss Argamani, a Chinese-born Israeli citizen, was kidnapped from the Nova festival and harrowing video footage from 7 October showed the 26-year-old being taken away on the back of a motorbike screaming, “Don’t kill me!”

Fresh video of her being reunited with her father, smiling and embracing him on board a vehicle, was broadcast soon after news of the rescue operation on Saturday.

Mr Kozlov, a Russian who moved to Israel in 2022, and Mr Ziv had both been working as security guards at the festival when they were kidnapped.

Mr Jan had been due to start a job at a large tech company the day after he was kidnapped.

Almog Meir Jan, a released hostage reacts, after the military said that Israeli forces have rescued four hostages alive from the central Gaza Strip

Almog Meir Jan was one of the hostages released alive from the central Gaza Strip [Reuters]

Andrey Kozlov, a released hostage reacts, after the military said that Israeli forces have rescued four hostages alive from the central Gaza Strip

Andrey Kozlov is a Russian-Israeli who worked in security at the music festival from where he was kidnapped on 7 October [Getty Images]

The Hostages Families Forum Headquarters, a group representing the families of the hostages, described the rescue as “a miraculous triumph” and thanked the IDF for the “heroic operation”.

The group added: “The Israeli government must remember its commitment to bring back all 120 hostages still held by Hamas — the living for rehabilitation, the murdered for burial.”

The rescue comes amid efforts for a ceasefire and hostage release deal between Israel and Hamas.

Mr Netanyahu has been urged to reach an agreement but faces opposition from far-right allies who say military action is the only way to bring the hostages back.

Saturday’s operation is the most successful rescue of hostages by the Israeli military in this war – and could change the calculation of a prime minister who is under increasing pressure.

Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz cancelled a news conference which had been scheduled for Saturday.

It comes amid speculation Mr Gantz would quit having previously threatened to resign from the war cabinet if Mr Netanyahu did not approve a post-war plan for Gaza by 8 June.

Map showing central Gaza where the four hostages were released following an operation by Israel

[BBC]

In response to the military offensive in Nuseirat, Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh said Israel could not force its choices on the group.

He said the group would not agree to a ceasefire deal unless it achieved security for Palestinians.

During its 7 October attacks in southern Israel Hamas killed about 1,200 people and took some 251 people.

Some 116 remain in the Palestinian territory, including 41 the army says are dead.

A deal agreed in November saw Hamas release 105 hostages in return for a week-long ceasefire and some 240 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

On Saturday, the Hamas-run health ministry said the death toll in Gaza is now 36,801 people.

Shlomi Ziv

Shlomi Ziv was part of the security detail at the festival [Reuters]

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