Hamas says over 200 killed as Israel rescues four Gaza hostages

Hamas says more than 200 killed as Israel rescues four Gaza hostages

/ 01:40 PM June 09, 2024

Hamas says more than 200 killed as Israel rescues four Gaza hostages

Relatives and supporters of Israelis taken hostage by Palestinian militants in Gaza in the October 7 attacks, demonstrate calling for their release in the central city of Tel Aviv on June 8, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip between Israel and the Palestinian militant Hamas group. Agence France-Presse

PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES — Israel announced its forces rescued four hostages on Saturday from a Gaza refugee camp in an operation which the Hamas-run government media office said left 210 Palestinians dead and hundreds wounded.

The Israeli military said the four, who were in “good medical condition”, had been kidnapped from the Nova music festival during Hamas’s October 7 attack that sparked war, now in its ninth month.

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The same day, aid began trickling back into the devastated Gaza Strip via a rebuilt, temporary pier, according to the US Central Command (CENTCOM).

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READ: Aid deliveries to Gaza resume through rebuilt pier

The pier, built by the US military to boost the delivery of direly needed relief supplies, was only briefly operational before it suffered storm damage at the end of May. After repairs, it was re-established on Friday.

CENTCOM said crews delivered about 492 tonnes (1.1 million pounds) of “much needed humanitarian assistance” via the pier on Saturday morning, and stressed that the facility was in no way connected to Israel’s hostage rescue operation.

The Israeli military said Noa Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 22, Andrey Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 41, were pulled out in a “complex” mission.

It released footage and images of them being extracted by helicopter and then reuniting with loved ones in emotional scenes at a Tel Aviv hospital.

READ: ‘It means the world’: Israelis rejoice as four hostages freed

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In Nuseirat, where the hostages were being held, Palestinians described coming under intense bombardment and heavy gunfire.

The hostages are among seven that Israeli forces have freed alive since Palestinian militants seized 251 people in their October attack on southern Israel.

There are now 116 hostages remaining in Gaza, including 41 the army says are dead.

‘Horror must stop’

News of the freed captives was met with celebrations and cheers in Israel, while anxieties over the fate of the remaining hostages prompted thousands to gather in Tel Aviv demanding an end to the eight-month-old war.

“They won’t be able to release all of them in a military operation,” said Michael Levy, whose brother Or is still being held.

Near Nuseirat on Saturday, an AFP photographer saw scores of Palestinians running for cover in fear of further Israeli strikes.

After the operation, piles of smoldering rubble and chunks of concrete clogged the streets.

The Hamas media office said “the number of victims from the Israeli occupation’s massacre in the Nuseirat camp has risen to 210 martyrs and more than 400 wounded”.

Israeli police said an officer was mortally wounded during the rescue operation.

Nuseirat resident Khalil Al-Tahrawi described hearing gun battles and shelling from his shelter.

“The Israeli warplanes began bombing us in all directions to cover up the withdrawal process,” he said.

The operation came days after an Israeli strike on the Nuseirat school run by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, which a Gaza hospital said had killed 37 people and the military said targeted “terrorists”.

UNRWA condemned Israel for striking a facility it said had been housing 6,000 displaced people.

Israel accuses Hamas and its allies in Gaza of using civilian infrastructure, including UN-run facilities, as operational centres, charges the militants deny.

The war has brought widespread devastation to Gaza, with one in 20 people dead or wounded, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry. Most of Gaza’s 2.4 million inhabitants are displaced.

Aid groups and the United Nations have also accused Israel of blocking or delaying the entry of food, water, medicines and fuel into Gaza, depriving people of lifesaving supplies.

Israel has blamed shortages on aid agencies’  inability to distribute supplies.

UN chief Antonio Guterres said on Saturday that 135 UNRWA workers have died in the war, the highest number of UN personnel killed in a single conflict.

“This horror must stop,” he said.

Ceasefire ‘essential’

US President Joe Biden reiterated his call for a ceasefire while welcoming news of the Israel’s freed hostages.

“We won’t stop working until all the hostages are home and a ceasefire is reached. That’s essential to happen,” he said.

He was speaking in Paris alongside French President Emmanuel Macron, who said: “We rejoice at the release of the four Israeli hostages.”

Israel faces growing diplomatic isolation, with international court cases accusing it of war crimes and several European countries recognising a Palestinian state.

Thousands of people marched through London on Saturday calling for a ceasefire, while demonstrators outside the White House protested against Washington’s support for Israel amid Gaza’s deadliest-ever war.

The Hamas attack that triggered the war resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Israel’s retaliatory military offensive has killed at least 36,801 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

Efforts to mediate the first ceasefire in the conflict since a week-long pause in November appear to have stalled after Biden offered the latest plan for a multi-phase truce and hostage release.

Major sticking points include Hamas insisting on a permanent truce and full Israeli withdrawal from all parts of Gaza — demands Israel has rejected.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also faces pressure from within his government to end the war, with war cabinet minister Benny Gantz threatening to quit.

Gantz cancelled a news conference scheduled for Saturday where Israeli media had speculated he would announce his resignation.

In brief remarks on Israeli television, Gantz on Saturday evening urged his colleagues in government to “look responsibly” into “how we can continue from here”.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday called on Hamas to accept the latest truce proposal outlined by Biden at the start of the month.

“The only thing standing in the way of achieving this ceasefire is Hamas. It is time for them to accept the deal,” he said.

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Blinken is set to visit Israel and key regional partners Egypt, Jordan and Qatar from Monday.

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TAGS: Hostage, Israel-Hamas war

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