Thursday, July 18, 2024

Israel rescues four hostages in Gaza but scores of Palestinians killed -Dlight News

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Israel’s military freed four hostages in Gaza on Saturday after a daylight operation in Nuseirat in the centre of the enclave that local officials said killed and injured hundreds of Palestinians.

The rescue operation was the largest conducted by Israel since the start of the war against Hamas. The rescue of one woman and three men — Noa Argamani, Almog Meir Jan, Andrey Kozlov and Shlomi Ziv — brings the number of hostages brought back alive by Israel’s military to seven.

The four were kidnapped from the Nova music festival in southern Israel during Hamas’s October 7 attack, in which militants killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials, and took about 250 hostage. Roughly half of the hostages were released during a truce last year in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

Gaza’s heath ministry said on Sunday that the raid had killed 274 Palestinians and injured 698, as Israel deployed massive firepower in the operation. It said more victims were still buried under rubble and on the roads, but that ambulances had so far been unable to reach them. Officials said medics treating the casualties had been overwhelmed by the numbers.

Daniel Hagari, spokesman for Israel’s military, said earlier he was aware of “under 100 casualties” and Israel was working to verify how many were militants. He accused Hamas of using civilians as cover.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the rescue and vowed that Israel would continue its operations until the 120 hostages still held by Hamas in Gaza — 43 of whom are thought to have died — were brought home.

“We will not relent until we complete the mission and return all our hostages home, both the living and the deceased,” he said.

The Hostages Families Forum Headquarters, which represents relatives of the captives, welcomed the rescue as a “miraculous triumph”, and urged the government to “remember its commitment” to bring back all the hostages — “the living for rehabilitation, the murdered for burial”.

In the wake of the rescue, Benny Gantz, the former general and opposition politician who joined Netanyahu’s coalition in the wake of the Hamas attack, cancelled an address scheduled for this evening. He had been widely expected to announce his departure from the government.

In a tweet on Saturday evening, Netanyahu called on Gantz to remain in the coalition. “This is the time for unity and not for division,” he wrote on the social media platform X.

In response, Gantz issued a statement saying Israel’s challenges remained unchanged and that “we must consider responsibly how it is best and possible to continue from here”.

Hagari said the hostages had been rescued from two locations about 200 metres apart in Nuseirat in simultaneous raids by special forces at around 11am local time. All four were “alive and well” and would undergo medical checks in Israel.

He added that the operation, during which one Israel soldier was killed, had taken weeks of planning, and that it would not be possible to free all the hostages in such a fashion.

“Of course what will bring most of the hostages back home alive is a deal. There is no arguing about that,” he said in a press briefing. “At the same time, we create the conditions, like we did today, to bring people back home.”

The release of the hostages was hailed by US President Joe Biden. But Arab nations reacted with fury to the scores of Palestinian deaths, with both Jordan and Egypt slamming the Israeli “attack” on Nuseirat.

Meanwhile the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, welcomed the hostages’ safe return, but added that “reports from Gaza of another massacre of civilians are appalling”.

“We condemn this in the strongest terms. The bloodbath must end immediately,” he wrote on X.

The rescue comes as Israel is under intense international pressure to agree to a ceasefire, facing anger over the soaring civilian toll of its offensive in Gaza, which has killed more than 37,000 people, according to Palestinian officials, and stoked a humanitarian catastrophe.

Last month, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court sought arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Israel’s defence minister Yoav Gallant, over the war, while the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to “immediately halt” its offensive in Rafah and allow more aid into Gaza.

On Friday it emerged that the UN had added the Israeli military to a list of countries and organisations that fail to protect children in conflict.

The news sparked a furious response in Israel, with its ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan — who published a recording of himself receiving the news — describing the decision as “shameful”.

The Palestinian Authority welcomed the decision, saying “accountability is overdue”.

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