Israel Rescues 4 Hostages, Kills 200 Palestinians in Accompanying Assault

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will not give in to terror after Israeli troops rescued four hostages Saturday who had been held by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip after they were abducted during the October 7 Hamas terror attack on southern Israel.

“Israel does not surrender to terrorism,” Netanyahu said. “We will not let go until we complete the mission and return all our hostages home — both the living and the dead,” he said while speaking after the rescue operation in the situation room.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the rescue operation Saturday was challenging. “Our troops showed so much courage — operating under heavy fire in the most complex urban environment in Gaza,” he said in a statement.

Gallant called it “one of the most heroic and extraordinary operations” he has witnessed during his 47 years of service in Israel’s defence establishment.

Rescued Israeli hostage Andrey Kozlov arrives in Ramat Gan, Israel, on June 8, 2024.
Rescued Israeli hostage Andrey Kozlov arrives in Ramat Gan, Israel, on June 8, 2024.

Israeli forces rescued four hostages from central Gaza on Saturday. They had been held since the Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel. More than 200 Palestinians died during the accompanying air assault, according to Hamas officials, one of the bloodiest Israeli assaults of the war.

The rescue operation took place in a densely built residential neighbourhood of al-Nuseirat, an Israeli military spokesperson said.

“We know about under 100 (Palestinian) casualties. I don’t know how many of them are terrorists,” Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said in a briefing with journalists. One Israeli special forces commander was also killed, he said.

“Israel does not surrender to terrorism,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “We will not let go until we complete the mission and return all our hostages home — both the living and the dead,” he said, speaking after the rescue operation in the situation room.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the rescue was challenging. Israeli troops operated “under heavy fire in the most complex urban environment in Gaza,” he said in a statement, calling it “one of the most heroic and extraordinary operations” he has witnessed during his 47 years of service in Israel’s defense establishment.

Medical officials in Nuseirat called it one of the bloodiest since the war began, Reuters reported.

“It was like a horror movie, but this was a real massacre. Israeli drones and warplanes fired all night randomly at people’s houses and at people who tried to flee the area,” said Ziad, 45, a paramedic and resident of Nuseirat, who gave only his first name.

“To free four people, Israel killed dozens of innocent civilians,” he said.

The bombardment targeted a local marketplace and the Al-Awda mosque, he told Reuters via a messaging app.

Social media footage showed the carnage, though Reuters could not independently verify it immediately.

The rescued hostages are Noa Argamani, 25, Almog Meir Jan, 22, Andrey Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 40. They were taken to a hospital for a medical evaluation and were in good health, the military said.

Almog Meir Jan, 22, kidnapped from Israel in a Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7, 2023, raises his hands after arriving by helicopter to the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel, June 8, 2024.
Almog Meir Jan, 22, kidnapped from Israel in a Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7, 2023, raises his hands after arriving by helicopter to the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel, June 8, 2024.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said Saturday in a statement that “our people will not surrender, and the resistance will continue to defend our rights in the face of this criminal enemy.”

Al-Qassam Brigades’ spokesperson Abu Ubaida said that Israel “by committing horrific massacres, was able to free some its hostages, yet it killed some others during the operation.” Abu Ubaida made the statement on Telegram, and it could not be verified.

Biden, and Macron discuss Middle East

U.S. President Joe Biden hailed the return of the four Israeli hostages.

Speaking at a news conference in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron, Biden said he joined his host in welcoming the return of the hostages.

“We won’t stop working until all the hostages come home and a cease-fire is reached,” he said.

In a joint news conference at the Elysee presidential palace, the two leaders pledged to work harder to prevent a regional escalation from Israel’s war with the militant group Hamas in Gaza and to focus on easing tensions between Israel and Hezbollah.

“We are redoubling efforts together to avoid a regional explosion, particularly in Lebanon,” Macron said. Hezbollah is an Iran-backed political movement and militia in Lebanon.

In a statement Saturday, the White House also expressed its support of all efforts ensuring the release of the remaining hostages, including American citizens. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan emphasized the significance of ongoing cease-fire negotiations.

“This deal has the full backing of the United States and has been endorsed by countries from around the world, including the G7, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, UAE, and Qatar, as well as the sixteen countries with their citizens still being held by Hamas. They all must be released — now,” the statement reads.

Pressure on Israel

The rescue comes amid international pressure on Israel to protect civilians in Gaza. To revive the stalled cease-fire negotiations between Israel and Hamas, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will return to the Middle East on Sunday.

His three-day trip will include stops in Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Qatar, where he will emphasize the importance of Hamas accepting the cease-fire proposal on the table that is nearly identical to one Hamas endorsed last month.

FILE - In this image from video, Noa Argamani reacts as she is seized by members of the Hamas militant group during an incursion into Israel on Oct. 7, 2023. Israel reported on June 8, 2024, that Aragamani was among four hostages rescued alive.
FILE – In this image from video, Noa Argamani reacts as she is seized by members of the Hamas militant group during an incursion into Israel on Oct. 7, 2023. Israel reported on June 8, 2024, that Aragamani was among four hostages rescued alive.

Netanyahu is facing growing demands to embrace the deal Biden endorsed last month to end the fighting in Gaza, though Israel’s far-right is threatening to collapse Netanyahu’s government if he does.

The October 7 terror attack resulted in the deaths of about 1,200 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to official Israeli figures. Hamas militants took 251 hostages, 116 of whom still remain in the Palestinian territory, including 41 the army says are dead.

So far, Israel’s offensive has killed at least 36,801 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between fighters and civilians in its figures.

Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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