RAFAA, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli forces rescued two hostages early Monday after breaking into a heavily guarded compound in the densely packed city. Gaza Strip More than 60 Palestinians, including women and children, were killed in airstrikes to cover up the attack.
The rescue in Rafah briefly lifted spirits among Israelis shocked by the plight of dozens of hostages held by Hamas. The nation is still reeling from cross-border attacks by the militant group that started the war last year.
The overnight bombings in Rafah, a city of about 1.4 million people, were devastating. Footage from The Associated Press showed flattened homes, torn tents and rows of bloodied bodies in nearby hospitals.
Israel's offensive has killed more than 28,000 Palestinians in the territory, displaced more than 80% of the population and caused 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 adolescents have been killed in the conflict. Ministry of Health of Gaza said Monday. Among those killed were 8,400 women. That means children and adolescents make up about 43% of the dead, and women and minors account for three-quarters.
The ministry, which does not differentiate between militants and civilians, provided the breakdown at the request of Andhra Pradesh. Israel claims to have killed around 10,000 Hamas fighters, but does not provide evidence.
In Hamas' cross-border offensive By October 7, 1,200 people had been killed, mostly civilians, and militants had captured 250, Israeli officials said.
Israel has described Rafah as the last remaining Hamas stronghold in Hamas territory and has signaled that its ground offensive may soon target the city. South edge Gaza Strip.
Israel says about 100 hostages are being held by Hamas after dozens were freed during a ceasefire in November. Hamas also holds the remains of 30 people killed or captured on October 7.
The government has made the destruction of Hamas' military and governing capabilities as well as the release of hostages the main objective of its war. But as The fight drags on, Divisions have appeared in Israel About how to recover them.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says continued military pressure will bring the captives' freedom, with many of the hostages' families and supporters calling on the government to strike another deal with Hamas.
A dramatic raid
Israeli military spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said special forces entered the second-floor apartment in Rafah at 1:49 a.m. Monday and launched an airstrike in the surrounding area a minute later. He said Hamas fighters were guarding the captives and rescue team members shielded the hostages with their bodies when fighting broke out.
The military identified those rescued as Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, who were abducted from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak on October 7. They also hold Argentine citizenship. There are only three of them The hostages must be rescued; A female soldier was rescued in November.
The rescue, which Hagari said was based on precise intelligence and planned for some time, was a morale booster for the Israelis, but a small step toward freeing the remaining hostages.
Har's son-in-law, Idan Pegerano, who saw the freed prisoners at the hospital as they were flown in, said they were both thin and pale, but they communicated well and were aware of their surroundings.
As soon as he saw him, Har said to him: “Today is your birthday, Mazal Tov.” According to a video released by Netanyahu's office, the men shared a long, tearful embrace with their relatives at the hospital.
Dozens were killed in the strikes
Airstrikes hit crowded Rafah in the middle of the night, and health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qitra said dozens of explosions were heard around 2 a.m., killing at least 67 people, including women and children. strikes.
Al-Qitra said rescuers were still searching the wreckage. An Associated Press journalist counted at least 50 bodies at the Abu Yusuf al-Najjar hospital in Rafah.
Mohamed Chogrub, a Palestinian resident of Rafah, said he saw a black jeep speeding through the town, which was followed by clashes and heavy airstrikes.
Speaking from an area flattened by bombing, he said, “From the airstrikes, we saw us running with our children in every direction.
Footage circulating on social media from Rafah's Kuwaiti hospital showed dead or injured children. The footage could not be immediately verified, but was consistent with the AP report.
The youth was seen carrying the body of a child who was said to have 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.
Concerns about Rafa
Netanyahu has said sending ground troops to Rafah is necessary to achieve Israel's war goals. On Sunday, the White House said President Joe Biden warned Netanyahu that Israel should not conduct a military operation there without a “credible and implementable” plan to protect civilians.
Now more than half of Gaza's population of 2.3 million Congestion in RafahHundreds of thousands of people live in sprawling tent camps, packed into the UN.
Biden's comments on phone call with Netanyahu His most powerful language In a possible process.
Discussion of a possibility Armistice agreement took up most of the call, said a senior US administration official. After weeks of diplomacy, the official said the “framework” was now “pretty good” for a deal that would see Hamas release prisoners in exchange for Palestinian prisoners and stop fighting.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the negotiations, acknowledged that “there are gaps” but declined to provide details. Military pressure on Hamas in the southern city of Khan Yunis in recent weeks helped the group agree to a deal, the official said.
Netanyahu's office declined to comment on the call. Hamas's Al-Aqsa TV agency quoted an unnamed Hamas official as saying that any invasion of Rafah would be “explosive.” The talks were mediated by the US, Egypt and Qatar.
Biden and Netanyahu spoke after Egypt said two Egyptian officials and a Western diplomat threatened to suspend its peace treaty With Israel if troops are sent into Rafah.
This story has been updated to correct that the number of minors killed made up 43% of Gaza's total death toll, not 47%.
Federman reported from Jerusalem and Magdy from Cairo. Associated Press writer Colin Long in Washington contributed to this report.
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