June 20, 2024

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Israel and Hamas at war, day 246 | Israel’s military says it has freed four hostages in raids in various parts of Gaza

Israel and Hamas at war, day 246 |  Israel’s military says it has freed four hostages in raids in various parts of Gaza

The Israeli military announced on Saturday that it had freed four hostages during a “special operation” in the center of the Gaza Strip, which has been targeted by heavy bombardment for days.




In the ninth month of war between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under intense pressure abroad to wage war in Gaza, but at home with the families of hostages taken during an unprecedented attack by Hamas on Israeli soil on Oct. 7, sparking hostility.

On Saturday morning, “During a difficult special daylight operation in Nowsirat, four Israeli hostages were freed,” the Israeli military wrote in a statement.

The four were identified as Noah Arkamani, 26, Almok Meir Jan, 22, Andrey Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 41, who were “abducted” from the site of the Nova electro music festival, the military said.

Photo by Marco Djurica, Reuters

One of the freed hostages was Andrey Kozlov, 27

The hostages, according to the same source, were “rescued” at two different locations in Nausirat and are “in good health”. They were transferred to the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, near Tel Aviv, “to undergo further medical examinations.”

“miracle”

“Noah, Almok, Andre and Shlomi, we are very happy to welcome you home,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant welcomed at X, describing the operation that freed them as “heroic”.

The Hostage Families Forum hailed it as a “wonderful victory” and urged the government and the international community to free the other hostages.

Israeli strikes in recent days have focused on the center of the Gaza Strip, and particularly on Nusirat, one of the UN’s refugee camps for Palestinian refugees. A local hospital said 37 people died on Thursday at the agency’s (UNRWA) school.

Photo by Abdul Karim Hana, Associated Press

Israeli armored vehicles drive through Deir al-Bala in the Gaza Strip, Saturday, June 8, 2024.

The Israeli military, which accused Hamas of using the school to carry out deliberate attacks, said it killed “17 terrorists” during the attack. Hamas condemned the “false information” after announcing that 14 children had died.

Philippe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, accused Israel of attacking the school “without prior warning” in Nousirat, which he says has “displaced 6,000 people” because of the war.

Before its announcement of the hostages, the Israeli military said on Saturday it had targeted “terrorist infrastructure” in the Nusirat sector, while witnesses said it fired from drones and helicopters against the camp.

Photo by Emmett Abu Shawish, Reuters

Smoke rises in the central Gaza Strip during an Israeli airstrike on June 8, 2024.

A spokesman for Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Bala near Nowseerat, Dr. Khalil al-Daghran, announced that 15 people had died in “intense Israeli strikes” which, he said, had left dozens injured.

According to witnesses, heavy fighting is taking place between the army and Palestinian militants in al-Burej and neighboring al-Maqazi camps.

In a statement, the Israeli military said it had “hit dozens of terrorist cells and infrastructure, including a tunnel located in a civilian structure” during operations in Burij and Deir al-Bala.

In the north, an overnight aerial bombardment of a house in Gaza City’s Sheikh Ratwane neighborhood killed five people and wounded seven others, a Baptist hospital and Gaza Civil Defense doctor said.

“The Big Bang”

“A big explosion was heard […] We went there and found human remains of children, women and the elderly,” said Mohammed Abu Nahl, a resident of Gaza.

In the south, local sources said artillery shelling hit parts of the town of Rafah on the Egyptian border. The military said it was continuing “targeted operations” there and found “a large cache of weapons”.

An October 7 attack by Hamas commandos who infiltrated the Palestinian territories killed 1,194 people, the majority civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official data.

251 people were taken hostage during this attack. After a brief ceasefire in November that allowed the release of hundreds of them, 116 hostages are still being held in Gaza, 41 of whom have died, according to the Israeli military.

In response to the October 7 attack, the Israeli military launched a deadly offensive in the small coastal enclave that Hamas seized control of in 2007. At least 36,801 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed, according to data from the Health Ministry of the Hamas-led Gaza government.

Blinken’s next visit

The conflict has devastated much of the Gaza Strip and uprooted most of its 2.4 million people, who face the risk of famine. International aid, whose entry into Gaza is controlled by Israel, reaches the territory only in trickles and in derelict areas.

In Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu’s political rival-turned-former army chief Benny Gantz was set to announce his resignation Saturday evening, canceling his intervention shortly before the announcement of the hostage release, according to Israeli media.

Photo by J. Scott Applewhite, Archives Associated Press

Benny Gantz

On May 18, he met Mr. Issued an ultimatum to Netanyahu, demanding that he accept a post-war “action plan” in the Gaza Strip by June 8, failing which he would be “forced to resign from the government,” which he joined after October 7.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is expected to “promote a ceasefire proposal” put forward by President Joe Biden in Israel, Egypt, Qatar and Jordan next week, according to Washington.

According to The Wall Street JournalCiting sources familiar with the matter, Qatar and Egypt recently threatened to arrest and expel Hamas officials from Doha, where they live, unless they agree to a ceasefire with Israel.

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