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In Israeli Hostage Rescue, Minutes Made the Difference

When the four Israelis woke up in Gaza on Saturday, they had been held hostage by Hamas for 245 days. The buildings in which they were held, two low-rise concrete apartment buildings, looked very similar to other neighboring residences in a civilian neighborhood populated by Palestinian families.

Within hours, the captives, three men and a woman, would be reunited with their own families, the result of a risky and long-planned rescue operation in which the full might of the Israeli military would be used to devastating effect.

“I’m so emotional,” one hostage, Noa Argamani, 26, told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call after her release. “It’s been so long since I heard Hebrew.”

The rescue efforts in Nuseirat involved hundreds of intelligence officers and two teams of commandos who simultaneously stormed the homes where the hostages were being held, the Israeli military said.

In an apartment where the male hostages were imprisoned, a shootout broke out between Hamas soldiers and guards, according to the military and released video footage of the encounter. Later, and amid a hail of gunfire, the truck in which three hostages and a wounded Israeli officer were being evacuated broke down and was surrounded by militants, Israeli officials said.

In an effort to give rescuers enough time and enough cover to lead the captives back to freedom, the military said, the Air Force began striking dozens of nearby targets. Many Palestinians only became aware of the fighting when they heard bomb explosions.

Many residents, including children, were killed during the rescue operation. Health authorities in Hamas-controlled territory put the number at more than 270. The Israeli military said the figure was less than 100. Neither the Israeli military nor Palestinian health officials provided a breakdown of the numbers. civilians and combatants killed during the raid.

Weeks before the raid, Israeli intelligence officials identified two buildings, about 200 feet apart, in which they believed the hostages were being held.

In May, Israeli intelligence officials determined that Ms. Argamani — whose capture at a music festival by activists on October 7 was widely shared on video — was being held in a family’s apartment near the Jerusalem market. Nuseirat, said Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military’s chief spokesman told reporters. Nearby, in another family’s apartment, were the three male hostages: Almog Meir Jan, 22, Andrey Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 41.

The house where the men were held belonged to Abdallah Aljamal, according to the Israeli military. Mr. Aljamal’s death was confirmed on Sunday by the Gaza government’s media office, which said he had worked for the Hamas-affiliated Palestine Now news agency.

“We decided to carry out the operation on both apartments because if we had chosen only one of them, the risk that the terrorists would kill the hostages in the other would have been too high,” he said. Admiral Hagari.

In preparation for the mission, the military “built models of these houses in order to practice,” Admiral Hagari said, adding that coordination between the two teams had to be “as precise as brain surgery.” to avoid an error in one of the groups. to each other’s problems.

On Saturday morning, as the sun approached its blazing midday zenith, residents of Nuseirat left the heat of their buildings. Outside, they went to work, shopped at the market and visited family.

“It was so normal and the streets were full of life, people selling and buying things,” said Bayan Khaled abu Amr, 32, who had left home that morning to visit his uncle.

Fifty kilometers away, Israeli officers gathered in the command room of the Shin Bet, the Israeli security agency, in Tel Aviv. “The tension in the air,” Admiral Hagari said, was “very, very high.”

There, around 11 a.m., Army Chief of Staff Gen. Herzi Halevi uttered the word “Go,” authorizing commandos from Israel’s YAMAM counterterrorism unit to begin the raid.

The unit’s soldiers started two vehicles that resembled local trucks, Israeli officials said, and headed toward each of the buildings where the hostages were being held.

Khalil Abdul Qader al-Tahrawi, a 60-year-old shopkeeper, said he was sitting outside his store when he saw people dressed in uniforms of the Qassam Brigades, the militant wing of Hamas, approaching the building in in which the three men were subsequently found detained.

The group, he said, seemed “suspicious and strange” to him, particularly because they “climbed into the building with ladders and came back down pointing their guns everywhere.” He said he thought they were Israeli commandos.

Other witnesses described men they also thought were Israeli special forces agents, but dressed in civilian clothes.

Israeli officials declined to say whether Israeli forces wore disguises during the raid.

Moments after General Halevi authorized the operation, troops simultaneously attacked both buildings. Ms. Argamani was kept under surveillance in a locked room and her captors were quickly killed before they even realized what was happening, Israeli officials said.

“In the Noa Argamani building,” Admiral Hagari said, “our forces completely surprised them.”

As the team responsible for freeing Ms. Argamani took her to a helicopter extraction point along Gaza’s Mediterranean coast, the team responsible for rescuing the three men in the other building began to catch fire, Admiral Hagari said.

It was then that Arnon Zmora, 36, an officer in the YAMAM unit, was shot and wounded, according to Admiral Hagari. Body camera footage released by Israeli Border Police shows Israeli troops finding the men hostage inside a residential building, even as they continued to exchange fire with militants off-screen.

In the footage, edited to blur the soldiers’ faces and remove bloody images, the hostages are then seen leaving the building and walking through a tree-filled field as gunfire rings out all around them.

“Hamas members shot at them,” said Mr. al-Tahrawi, the store owner.

Other militants joined the fight, according to Admiral Hagari, “running through the streets with RPGs,” an acronym for rocket-propelled grenades. “There was a lot of fire around us,” he said.

As Ms. Argamani approached the beach in one vehicle, the other truck used for the rescue broke down, according to Israeli officials, who requested anonymity to discuss a clandestine operation. To provide cover for the disabled truck, officials said, the Air Force began bombing the nearby area, creating a shield of fire.

“Suddenly I heard a loud bomb and the sound of missiles around this mosque,” ​​said Ms. Abu Amr, the woman who was visiting her uncle. “I don’t remember the exact time, but maybe 11:20”

“Once again, a large, loud missile was heard and gray smoke was rising,” Ms. Abu Amr added. “People started screaming. » In the chaos of the bombings, she said, “children were screaming; women fell running.

Israeli ground forces stationed nearby went to the broken-down truck and transferred the hostages and Chief Inspector Zmora, the injured officer, to another vehicle, Israeli officials said.

From there, they rushed to the beach, where the second of the two helicopters was waiting for them. The first had already taken off with Ms. Argamani on board.

Footage released by the military showed soldiers walking the hostages along the beach while a helicopter kicked up clouds of sand.

“We called the hostages diamonds, so we say we have the diamonds in our hands,” Admiral Hagari said.

Chief Inspector Zmora was evacuated to an Israeli hospital, where he died from his injuries.

The halls and corridors of central Gaza’s last major medical center, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah, remained “densely packed” with new patients on Sunday, after more than 100 bodies were found there. were brought in on Saturday, said Khalil Daqran, head of the hospital. Most of the bodies have since been buried or claimed by relatives, he added.

The medical center – already bursting at the seams before the Israeli relief effort in nearby Nuseirat – was overflowing, said Dr. Abdelkarim al-Harazin, 28, a doctor who works there.

Gaza’s health ministry said up to 700 people were injured.

Aaron Boxerman And Adam Rasgon contributed reporting from Jerusalem.

News Source :
Gn world

jack colman

With a penchant for words, jack began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class. After interning at the New York Times, jack landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim. Though writing is his passion, jack also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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