War between Israel and Hamas: Operation to rescue Israeli hostages in Rafah kills 67 people

Rafah (Gaza Strip) – Israeli forces rescued two hostages at dawn on Monday, after storming a heavily guarded apartment in a densely populated town in the Gaza Strip. Gaza strip The air strikes carried out to cover the raid led to the killing of more than 60 Palestinians, including women and children.

The rescue operation in Rafah briefly raised Israeli morale after being shaken by the plight of dozens of hostages held by Hamas. The country is still reeling from the armed group's cross-border raid last year that started the war.

The night bombing caused devastation in Rafah, which is inhabited by about 1.4 million people, most of whom fled their homes elsewhere in Gaza to escape the fighting. Associated Press footage showed a large area of ​​flattened homes, torn tents and lines of bloodied bodies being taken to nearby hospitals.

The Israeli attack led to the killing of more than 28,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the displacement of more than 80% of the population, and caused a huge humanitarian crisis.

Joe Federman, AP news director for Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan, reported that the hostage rescue took place in Rafah.

More than 12,300 Palestinian children and adolescents were killed in the conflict, Ministry of Health in Gaza He said on Monday. Among the dead were about 8,400 women. This means that children and teenagers make up about 43% of the dead, and women and minors together make up three-quarters.

The ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians, provided the details at the request of the Associated Press. Israel claims to have killed about 10,000 Hamas fighters, but has not provided evidence.

in Hamas cross-border raid On October 7, an estimated 1,200 people were killed, most of them civilians, and 250 people were captured by militants, according to Israeli authorities.

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Israel described Rafah as the last remaining stronghold of Hamas in the Strip and indicated that its ground attack may target the town soon. Southern edge From the Gaza Strip.

Israel says about 100 hostages remain held by Hamas after dozens were released during a ceasefire in November. Hamas also holds the remains of about 30 other people who were killed on October 7 or who died in captivity.

The government has made the release of hostages a major goal of its war, along with destroying Hamas' military and governance capabilities. But as The fighting continues, Divisions appeared in Israel About how to restore it.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says continued military pressure will lead to the release of the prisoners even as the hostages' families and many of their supporters have called on the government to make another deal with Hamas.

Dramatic raid

Israeli army spokesman Admiral Daniel Hagari said that special forces stormed a second-floor apartment in Rafah under gunfire at 1:49 a.m. on Monday, accompanied a minute later by air strikes on the surrounding areas. He said that Hamas fighters were guarding the prisoners and that members of the rescue team protected the hostages with their bodies as the battle broke out.

The army identified those rescued as Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Haar, 70, who were kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak on October 7. They also hold Argentine citizenship. They are among only three Hostages to be rescued; A female soldier was rescued in November.

The rescue, which Hagari said was based on accurate intelligence and had been planned for some time, is a morale boost for the Israelis but a small step toward winning the release of the remaining hostages, who are believed to be scattered and hiding in the tunnels.

Har's brother-in-law, Aidan Bejerano, who saw the released prisoners at the hospital where they were airlifted, said the two men were thin and pale, but communicated well and were aware of their surroundings.

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Bejerano said that Haar said to him upon seeing him: “You have a birthday today, Mazal Tov.” The men held long, tearful embraces with their relatives in the hospital, according to a video clip published by Netanyahu's office.

Dozens were killed in the raids

Ashraf Al-Qudra, spokesman for the Ministry of Health, said that air strikes hit the crowded city of Rafah in the middle of the night, and dozens of explosions were heard around 2 a.m. Ashraf Al-Qudra, spokesman for the Ministry of Health, said that at least 67 people, including women and children, were killed in Bombing. Strikes.

Al-Qudra said that rescuers were still searching through the rubble. An Associated Press journalist counted at least 50 bodies at Abu Youssef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah.

Muhammad Zagreb, a Palestinian living in Rafah, said he saw a black jeep speeding through the town, followed by clashes and intense air strikes.

Speaking from the bombed area, he said: “We found ourselves running with our children from air strikes in every direction.”

Footage circulated on social media from Rafah Kuwaiti Hospital showed dead or wounded children. The footage could not immediately be verified but was consistent with AP reporting.

A young man was seen carrying the body of an infant who he said was killed in the attacks. He said that the girl, his neighbor's daughter, was born and killed during the war.

“Let Netanyahu come and see: Is this one of your specific goals?” He said.

Concerns about Rafah

Netanyahu said that sending ground forces to Rafah is necessary to achieve the Israeli war goals. The White House said on Sunday that President Joe Biden warned Netanyahu that Israel should not conduct a military operation there without a “credible and implementable” plan to protect civilians.

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More than half of Gaza's 2.3 million people now live in the country They were trapped in RafahHundreds of thousands live in sprawling camps and overcrowded United Nations shelters.

Biden's statements came during a phone call with Netanyahu His strongest language yet On the possible process.

Discuss the possibility of a The ceasefire agreement occupied a large part of the callA senior US administration official said. The official said that after weeks of diplomacy, the framework was now “largely” in place for an agreement that could see the remaining hostages held by Hamas released in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners and a cessation of fighting.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the negotiations, acknowledged “gaps” but declined to provide details. The official said that military pressure on Hamas in the southern city of Khan Yunis in recent weeks helped bring the movement closer to accepting the deal.

Netanyahu's office declined to comment on the call. The Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa TV channel had previously quoted an unnamed Hamas official as saying that any invasion of Rafah would “blow up” the Strip. Talks mediated by the United States, Egypt and Qatar.

Biden and Netanyahu spoke after two Egyptian officials and a Western diplomat said Egypt It threatened to suspend the peace treaty With Israel if it sends forces to Rafah.

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This story has been updated to correct that the number of minors killed was about 43% of the total death toll in Gaza, not 47%.

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Federman reported from Jerusalem and Magdy from Cairo. Associated Press writer Colleen Long in Washington contributed to this report.

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Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

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