Intense Rescue Operation in Gaza: Hostages Freed Amid Heavy Casualties

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Palestinians in Gaza’s densely populated Nuseirat refugee camp have recounted the terror of an Israeli rescue operation aimed at freeing hostages held by Hamas. The operation, which took place on Saturday, involved fierce gun battles and extensive air strikes.

Israeli forces successfully rescued four hostages: Noa Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 22, Andrei Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 41. These individuals had been abducted from an Israeli music festival eight months prior. Their return has been celebrated in Israel, with world leaders, including US President Joe Biden, expressing relief and joy.

However, the operation resulted in significant loss of life among Palestinians. The Hamas-run health ministry reported numerous casualties, including women and children. Abdel Salam Darwish, a local resident, described the harrowing aftermath: “People’s bodies were in pieces, scattered in the streets, and blood stained the walls.”

Images from the area show widespread devastation and mourning. Two hospitals, al-Aqsa and al-Awda, reported a combined death toll of 70, while Hamas’s media office claimed at least 210 deaths. Israel’s military estimated fewer than 100 casualties, calling the mission “high-risk and complex.”

Despite the success of the hostage rescue, the high civilian toll has drawn international condemnation. European Union foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell condemned the operation, describing reports of civilian massacres as “appalling.” An Israeli minister countered, urging condemnation of Hamas instead.

Scenes from the aftermath reveal severe injuries and overwhelmed medical facilities. Dr. Marwan Abu Nasser of Al-Awda Hospital highlighted the hospital’s inability to manage the influx of casualties due to a lack of morgue space.

The operation has also stirred criticism within Gaza. Hassan Omar, a resident, lamented the loss of lives, suggesting that negotiating the release of hostages without bloodshed would have been more beneficial.

The rescue occurred amid ongoing ceasefire and hostage release negotiations between Israel and Hamas. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces pressure to reach an agreement, despite opposition from far-right allies who advocate for continued military action.

Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh maintained that Israel could not impose its will on the group and insisted on achieving security for Palestinians as part of any ceasefire deal.

This latest operation marks the most successful hostage rescue by the Israeli military in the ongoing conflict, potentially influencing the strategic decisions of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is under growing pressure.

The health ministry in Gaza reported that the overall death toll from the conflict has now reached 36,801 people.

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