Israel rescues 4 hostages kidnapped in Hamas’ October 7 attack; at least 210 Palestinians killed in strikes

The Israeli Army said it rescued Noa Argamani, Almog Meir Jan, Andrey Kozlov and Shlomi Ziv in an operation in Nuseirat

Updated - June 09, 2024 12:57 pm IST

Published - June 08, 2024 04:37 pm IST - JERUSALEM

Supporters and family members of hostages, who were kidnapped during the deadly October 7 attack by Hamas, react as they walk towards a medical centre after the military said that Israeli forces have rescued four hostages alive from the central Gaza Strip on June 08, 2024, in Ramat Gan, Israel.

Supporters and family members of hostages, who were kidnapped during the deadly October 7 attack by Hamas, react as they walk towards a medical centre after the military said that Israeli forces have rescued four hostages alive from the central Gaza Strip on June 08, 2024, in Ramat Gan, Israel. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Israel on June 8 rescued four hostages who were kidnapped in the Hamas-led attack on October 7, the largest such recovery operation since the war began. At least 210 Palestinians including children were killed as heavy fighting continued around the sites in central Gaza, the Health Ministry said.

Israel’s Army said it rescued Noa Argamani, 25; Almog Meir Jan, 21; Andrey Kozlov, 27; and Shlomi Ziv, 40, in a complex daytime operation in the heart of Nuseirat on Saturday morning, raiding two locations at once and under fire. All were well, the military said, and they were taken by helicopter for medical checks and reunions with loved ones after 246 days in captivity.

Argamani had been one of the most widely recognized hostages after being abducted from a music festival in southern Israel. The video of her abduction was among the first to surface, with Argamani detained between two men on a motorcycle as she screamed, “Don’t kill me!”

Her mother, Liora, has stage four brain cancer and in April released a video pleading to see her daughter before she dies.

An elated Argamani spoke by phone with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In a message released by the government, Netanyahu is heard asking how she’s feeling. She tells him she is “very excited,” saying she hasn’t heard Hebrew in so long.

The hostages were rescued in two separate locations in the heart of Nuseirat, it said.

Hamas kidnapped some 250 hostages during its attack on southern Israel on October 7. About half were released in a weeklong cease-fire in November.

Netanyahu in a statement said that “Israel does not surrender to terrorism and acts with creativity and boldness that knows no bounds to bring home our abductees.” He vowed to continue the fighting until all are freed.

The bodies of nearly 100 Palestinians killed were taken to Al-Aqsa Hospital, where Khalil Degran told The Associated Press more than 100 wounded also arrived. AP reporters also saw the dead brought to the hospital from the Nuseirat and Deir al-Balah areas, as smoke rose in the distance.

“My two cousins were killed, and two other cousins were seriously injured. They did not commit any sin. They were sitting at home,” one relative said in the bloodied chaos at the hospital.

Israel’s military said it attacked “threats to our forces in the area.” The military said one commando died from his wounds.

Israel says more than 130 hostages remain, with about a quarter of those believed dead, and divisions are deepening in the country over the best way to bring them home.

The operation on June 8 is the largest recovery of alive hostages since the war erupted, bringing the total of rescued captives to seven. Two were freed in February and one was freed in the aftermath of the October attack. Israeli troops have recovered the bodies of at least 16 others, according to the government.

The latest rescue lifted some spirits in Israel as divisions deepen over the best way to bring hostages home. Many Israelis urge Netanyahu to embrace a cease-fire deal U.S. President Joe Biden announced last month, but far-right allies threaten to collapse his government if he does.

Netanyahu, whose support has fallen, rushed to the hospital to greet the freed hostages and his office released a stream of photos and videos of him meeting the families. But thousands of Israelis again gathered Saturday evening for the latest anti-government demonstration and calls for a cease-fire agreement.

“It’s time to pay the price of a political deal. One deal that will bring them all back without risking soldiers,” said Omri Shtivi, whose brother Idan marked his 29th birthday Saturday while in captivity

.It was unclear what effect the rescue might have on apparently stalled cease-fire efforts. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will return to the Middle East next week, seeking a breakthrough.

“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,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement.

International pressure is mounting on Israel to limit civilian bloodshed in its war in Gaza, which reached its eighth month on Friday with more than 36,700 Palestinians killed, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between fighters and civilians.

Palestinians also face widespread hunger because fighting and Israeli restrictions have largely cut off the flow of aid

.Meanwhile, Benny Gantz, a popular centrist member of Israel’s three-member War Cabinet who had threatened to resign from the government if it didn’t adopt a new plan by Saturday for the war in Gaza, postponed an expected announcement. Netanyahu urged him not to step down.

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