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ConflictsMiddle East

Israeli forces rescue four hostages from Gaza

June 8, 2024

The Israeli military said four hostages were rescued from captivity in Gaza. Hamas militants said over 200 people, including some hostages, were killed during the Israeli operation.

Relatives of released hostages arrive at Tel Hashomer (Sheba) hospital.
The freed hostages were kidnapped by the Palestinian militant group Hamas from the Nova music festival in southern Israel on Oct. 7, the IDF saidImage: Ilia Yefimovich/dpa/picture alliance

The Israeli military said on Saturday that four hostages were rescued during an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operation in Gaza's Nuseirat, in the largest hostage rescue since the Gaza war began on October 7. Palestinian officials said the Israeli mission killed more than 200 people, putting it among the deadliest Israeli assaults of the war.

The hostages, three men and one woman, were identified as 25-year-old Noa Argamani, 21-year-old Almog Meir Jan, 27-year-old Andrey Kozlov and 40-year-old Shlomi Ziv.

They were kidnapped by the Palestinian militant group Hamas from the Nova music festival in southern Israel on October 7, the IDF said. Israel lists Hamas as a terrorist organization, alongside other countries, including the United States and Germany.

The Hamas attacks killed nearly 1,200 people, according to Israeli authorities. Israel's retaliatory military operations in Gaza have killed at least 36,801 Palestinians, according to Gaza's Hamas-led Health Ministry on Saturday. The United Nations estimates that roughly three-fifths of the victims identified were women, children or elderly people.

Israeli military rescues hostages held by Hamas

What the IDF said about the rescue operation

The four rescued former hostages are in "good medical condition" and were taken to the "Sheba" Tel-Hashomer Medical Center for further medical evaluation, according to the military. The IDF said it would continue to make every effort to bring the remaining hostages home. 

The IDF, together with the Israeli Air Force and the Yamam police counterterrorism unit, carried out what it described as the "complex daytime operation" on Saturday morning. Hostages were freed from two separate locations "in the heart of Nuseirat."

An Israeli special forces officer died of wounds suffered in the raid, police said.

At least 210 Palestinians were killed and around 400 wounded in Israeli strikes on the Nuseirat refugee camp, where the hostage rescue took place in central Gaza on Saturday, the Hamas-run Gaza government media office said in a statement.

It was not stated whether the people were killed in the IDF operations to rescue the hostages. The figures also did not differentiate between civilian and militant deaths. 

A spokesperson for Hamas' armed al-Qassam Brigades, Abu Ubaida, said some hostages were killed during the rescue operation. 

"We know about under 100 [Palestinian[ casualties," IDF spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said. "I don't know how many from them are terrorists."

How will the hostage rescue affect the ongoing conflict?

Commenting on the operation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "Israel does not surrender to terrorism" and that it is operating "creatively and bravely" to bring home the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.

"We are committed to do so in the future as well. We will not let up until we complete the mission and return home all the hostages — both those alive and dead," Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu's office also released a video of him speaking with Argamani on a mobile telephone. She said she was "very excited" to return home. Netanyahu told her, "We didn't give up on you for one moment."

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the conflict would continue following fighting at the Nuseirat refugee camp, where Israel mounted a successful hostage rescue operation.

"Our people will not surrender, and the resistance will continue to defend our rights in the face of this criminal enemy," Haniyeh says in a statement, according to media reports.

Earlier attack in Nuseirat

Earlier on Saturday, the military said in a separate statement that forces were "targeting terrorist infrastructure in the area of Nuseirat."

On Thursday, Israeli warplanes struck a UN-run school in the Nuseirat refugee camp, killing at least 35 people, according to a Gaza hospital.

About 250 hostages were abducted by Hamas and other militants during the October 7 attacks on southern Israel. A total of seven have been rescued, and about 100 were exchanged for Palestinians held by Israel as part of a temporary truce in November. About 80 hostages are believed to still be alive in Hamas captivity.

Reactions to the hostage rescue

The rescue operation elicited praise and condemnation from the West and the Middle East.

US President Joe Biden, speaking from Paris, welcomed news of the rescue and reiterated his call for Hamas to release the 120 or so individuals they continue to hold hostage in Gaza. "We won't stop working until all the hostages are home and a cease-fire is reached," said Biden. "That's essential."

Biden's host, French President Emmanuel Macron, added: "We rejoice at the release of the four Israeli hostages freed by the Israeli army today ... we want to achieve an immediate cease-fire and open up the prospect of a political solution."

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan underscored Washington's desire to see an end to the war in Gaza, saying, "The hostage release and cease-fire deal that is now on the table would secure the release of all the remaining hostages together with security assurances for Israel and relief for the innocent civilians in Gaza."

Egypt, in turn, condemned the operation in "the strongest terms," with Cairo's Foreign Ministry calling it, "a flagrant violation of all rules of international law."

Israel, which accused Hamas of hiding the hostages in the refugee camp, said its troops had simply fired on "threats to our forces in the area."

dh/rmt (AFP, AP, Reuters)