RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli forces rescued two hostages and stormed a heavily guarded apartment in a densely populated Gaza Strip city early Monday. Gaza Strip Airstrikes to cover the attack killed more than 60 Palestinians, including women and children.
The Rafah rescue operation briefly shocked Israelis, who were shocked by the fate of dozens of hostages held by Hamas. The country is still reeling from the militant group’s cross-border attack last year, which started the war.
The overnight bombardment wreaked havoc in Rafah, home to some 1.4 million people, most of whom fled their homes elsewhere in Gaza to escape the fighting. Associated Press images showed a large area of flattened houses, torn tents and rows of bloodied bodies being taken to nearby hospitals.
The Israeli offensive has killed more than 28,000 Palestinians in the area, displaced more than 80% of the population and created a massive humanitarian crisis.
Joe Federman, AP News Director for Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Jordan, reports that the hostage rescue took place in Rafah.
More than 12,300 Palestinian children and young teenagers have been killed in the conflict. Gaza’s Ministry of Health said Monday. About 8,400 women were also among the dead. That means children and young teenagers make up about 43% of deaths, and women and minors make up three-quarters.
The ministry, which does not distinguish between fighters and civilians, provided the breakdown at the AP’s request. Israel claims to have killed about 10,000 Hamas fighters, but has provided no evidence.
In Cross-border attack by Hamas According to Israeli authorities, an estimated 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed on October 7 and militants captured 250 people.
Israel has described Rafah as the last remaining Hamas stronghold in the area and indicated that its ground offensive could soon target the city. the southern edge of the Gaza Strip.
Israel says about 100 hostages remain in Hamas captivity after dozens were freed during a ceasefire in November. Hamas also holds the remains of about 30 others who were killed or died in captivity on October 7.
The government has made freeing the hostages a top goal of its war, in addition to destroying Hamas’s military and administrative capabilities. But if the fighting continues, Divisions have arisen in Israel on how to pick them up.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says continued military pressure will secure the prisoners’ freedom, even as families of the hostages and many of their supporters have called on the government to strike a new deal with Hamas.
A DRAMATIC RAID
Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari said special forces broke into a second-floor apartment in Rafah that was under fire at 1:49 a.m. on Monday, joined a minute later by airstrikes on surrounding areas. He said Hamas militants were guarding the prisoners and rescue team members were protecting the hostages with their bodies when the fighting broke out.
The military identified those rescued as Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, who were kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak on October 7. They also have Argentine citizenship. They belong to only three rescue hostages; a female soldier was rescued in November.
The rescue, which Hagari said was based on precise intelligence and planned for some time, is a morale booster for the Israelis but a small step toward the release of the remaining hostages, who are believed to be scattered and hidden are in tunnels.
Har’s son-in-law, Idan Begerano, who saw the released prisoners at the hospital where they were flown, said the two men were thin and pale but communicated well and were aware of their surroundings.
Begerano said that Har immediately told him when he saw him, “It’s your birthday today, Mazal Tov.” The men held long, tearful embraces with their relatives at the hospital, according to a video released by Netanyahu’s office.
Dozens killed in strikes
The airstrikes hit busy Rafah in the middle of the night and dozens of explosions were heard around 2am. Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said at least 67 people, including women and children, were killed in the airstrikes. strikes.
Al-Qidra said rescuers were still searching through the rubble. An Associated Press journalist counted at least 50 bodies at Abu Youssef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah.
Mohamed Zoghroub, a Palestinian living in Rafah, said he saw a black jeep driving through the city, followed by clashes and heavy airstrikes.
“We found ourselves running in all directions with our children because of the air strikes,” he said from an area paralyzed by the bombardment.
Images circulating on social media from Kuwaiti Rafah Hospital showed dead or injured children. The images could not immediately be verified but were consistent with the AP reporting.
A young man could be seen carrying the body of a baby he said had been killed in the attacks. He said the girl, his neighbor’s daughter, was born and killed during the war.
“Let Netanyahu come and see: is this one of your designated targets?” he said.
WORRY ABOUT RAFAH
Netanyahu has said sending ground troops to Rafah is essential to achieving Israel’s war aims. On Sunday, the White House said President Joe Biden had warned Netanyahu that Israel should not conduct a military operation there without a “credible and actionable” plan to protect civilians.
More than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents now are crammed into Rafahwhere hundreds of thousands of people live in vast tent camps and overcrowded UN shelters.
Biden’s comments, made during a phone call with Netanyahu, were his most powerful language yet about the possible operation.
Discussion of the options for one The ceasefire agreement took up much of the appealThis was said by a senior US government official. The official said that after weeks of diplomacy, a “framework” is now “virtually” in place for a deal that could lead to the release of the remaining hostages held by Hamas in exchange for Palestinian prisoners and an end to the fights.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the negotiations, acknowledged that “gaps remain” but declined to provide details. The official said military pressure on Hamas in the southern city of Khan Younis in recent weeks has brought the group closer to accepting a deal.
Netanyahu’s office declined to comment on the call. Hamas’s Al-Aqsa television station previously quoted an unnamed Hamas official as saying that any Rafah invasion would “blow up” the region. talks mediated by the United States, Egypt and Qatar.
Biden and Netanyahu spoke after two Egyptian officials and a Western diplomat said Egypt threatened to suspend his peace treaty with Israel if troops are sent to Rafah.
This story has been updated to correct that the number of minors murdered is about 43% of the total death toll in Gaza, not 47%.
Federman reported from Jerusalem and Magdy reported from Cairo. Associated Press writer Colleen Long in Washington contributed to this report.
Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war