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Israel rescues four hostages alive from Gaza after 246 days

In World
June 08, 2024

Israeli special forces rescued four hostages in broad daylight on Saturday from the Nuseirat refugee district in the centre of the Gaza Strip after 246 days in captivity, the army said.

Following the hostage liberation, the Palestinian director of the al-Aqsa hospital, said at least 94 people were killed and a further 200 injured in the course of the Israeli rescue operation. This information could not be independently verified. The Israeli army, on enquiry, said it was checking the reports.

The freed Israeli hostages were named as Noa Argamani, 25, Almog Meir Jan, 21, Andrey Kozlov, 27 and Shlomi Ziv, 40. They were all abducted from the Nova music festival in southern Israel on October 7, the army said.

“They are alive. They are fine,” said Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Daniel Hagari. Israeli media showed pictures of the happy reunion of Argamani with her family. She is especially well known in Israel as she was seen being kidnapped by Hamas on a motorbike, desperately crying out for help.

The four were rescued in two operations that had been planned for weeks, Hagari said.

Meanwhile, the director of the al-Aqsa hospital in Deir al-Balah said in a press release that 94 Palestinians had been killed and around 200 others injured in Nuseirat. Earlier, medical circles and the Hamas-controlled health authority in Gaza Strip spoke of 55 deaths in army attacks on the Nuseirat refugee camp and the town of Deir al-Balah.

It was not initially stated whether the people were killed in the army operations to rescue the hostages. It was also not clear how many of those killed were civilians or Hamas fighters. The information could not initially be independently verified. The army said on enquiry that it was checking the reports.

There were reportedly heavy airstrikes and artillery fire in the area. Footage purporting to show scenes from the treating hospital shows bloodied victims, dead bodies and injured children. According to reports, complete chaos broke out at the al-Aqsa hospital.

The Hamas-controlled media office spoke of “an unprecedented, brutal attack on the Nuseirat refugee camp” and said that the al-Aqsa hospital was in a catastrophic situation.

In Doha, Ismail Haniyeh, the top Hamas official, described Israel’s recent operations in Gaza as a “massacre” of the Palestinians.

“The enemy is continuing its massacre against our people, our children and women, in Nuseirat and Deir al-Balah,” Hanija said on Saturday. Earlier in the day Israeli special forces freed four hostages from this area.,

Haniyeh declared that Israel had “failed militarily, politically and morally.”

As for the still unsuccessful negotiations on a possible ceasefire, Haniyeh declared that Hamas would not agree to any agreement that did not “first and foremost provide security for our people.”

Haniyeh did not mention the four released hostages in his statement.

The Israelis were rescued from Gaza after 246 days in captivity from two different buildings in a “complex, high-risk mission,” IDF spokesman Hagari said. The special forces, who had reportedly been preparing for the mission for weeks, carried out the operation under fire.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Argamani on Saturday, according to his office. She was happy to be able to speak in Hebrew again after such a long time, according to the media.

Her mother is suffering from terminal cancer and wanted to see her daughter before she died. Israeli media said Saturday is her father’s birthday.

According to the Forum of Hostage Families, Argamani’s boyfriend, who was also kidnapped and seen on that October 7 video of the kidnapping, is still being held by Hamas.

According to a media report, spontaneous cheers and applause broke out on the beach in Tel Aviv after a lifeguard announced the rescue operation.

“We are overjoyed to have you home,” said Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, according to his office. He spoke of a “heroic operation.”

Benny Gantz, a minister in Israel’s war cabinet, said after the hostages were rescued that his “heart was full,” according to the media. At the same time, he cancelled a speech planned for the evening. It was expected that he would announce his party’s withdrawal from the government.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has described the release of four Israeli hostages from the Gaza Strip on Saturday as an “important sign of hope.”

Writing on X, he said this was “especially true for the many families in Israel who continue to fear for their loved ones.

“Four hostages are now free. Hamas must finally release all hostages. The war must end,” he said.

According to Israeli police, a high-ranking official was also killed during the operation in Nuseirat. No additional information was immediately available.

The war started on October 7 when Hamas launched a surprise attack in southern Israel, killing 1,200 and taking about 250 people as hostage.

In November there was a temporary ceasefire in which Hamas released more than 100 hostages in exchange for Israel releasing Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

There are believed to be about 120 hostages from Israel still in Gaza but it is unclear how many of them are still alive.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Centre, in Ramat Gan. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) had rescued four Israeli hostages on Saturday in a "complex special daytime operation" in Nuseirat, a refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. Jack Guez/AFP pool/dpa

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Centre, in Ramat Gan. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) had rescued four Israeli hostages on Saturday in a “complex special daytime operation” in Nuseirat, a refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. Jack Guez/AFP pool/dpa

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Centre, in Ramat Gan. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) had rescued four Israeli hostages on Saturday in a "complex special daytime operation" in Nuseirat, a refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. Jack Guez/AFP pool/dpa

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Centre, in Ramat Gan. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) had rescued four Israeli hostages on Saturday in a “complex special daytime operation” in Nuseirat, a refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. Jack Guez/AFP pool/dpa

Shlomi Ziv (L), 40, Andrey Kozlov (C), 27, and Almog Meir, 21, three of the four Israeli hostages who were kidnapped by Hamas from the Nova music festival on 7 October, arrive by a helicopter at the Sheba Medical center in Ramat Gan. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on Saturday that it had rescued four Israeli hostages in a "complex special daytime operation" in Nuseirat, a refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. Ilia Yefimovich/dpa

Andrey Kozlov (C), 27, one of the four Israeli hostages who were kidnapped by Hamas from the Nova music festival on 7 October, arrives by a helicopter at the Sheba Medical center in Ramat Gan. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on Saturday that it had rescued four Israeli hostages in a "complex special daytime operation" in Nuseirat, a refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. Ilia Yefimovich/dpa

A helicopter carrying the rescued Israeli hostages who were kidnapped by Hamas from the Nova music festival on 7 October, arrives at the Sheba Medical center in Ramat Gan. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on Saturday that it had rescued four Israeli hostages in a "complex special daytime operation" in Nuseirat, a refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. Ilia Yefimovich/dpa

A helicopter carrying the rescued Israeli hostages who were kidnapped by Hamas from the Nova music festival on 7 October, arrives at the Sheba Medical center in Ramat Gan. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on Saturday that it had rescued four Israeli hostages in a "complex special daytime operation" in Nuseirat, a refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. Ilia Yefimovich/dpa

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