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Israel rescues four hostages from Gaza in deadly operation

Almog Meir Jan, 21, kidnapped from Israel in a Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7, 2023, raises his hands after arriving by helicopter to the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel
Almog Meir Jan, 21, kidnapped from Israel in a Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7, 2023, raises his hands after arriving by helicopter to the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel Copyright Ismael Abu Dayyah/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Ismael Abu Dayyah/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Daniel Bellamy with AP
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Israel said on Saturday it rescued four hostages from Deir Al Balah in Gaza. Intense fighting in the area killed dozens of Palestinians.

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Four of the hostages kidnapped in Israel during the Hamas-led October 7 attack have been freed - in what is the largest such recovery operation since the war began in Gaza.

Israel's army said it rescued Noa Argamani, 25; Almog Meir Jan, 21; Andrey Kozlov, 27; and Shlomi Ziv, 40, in two locations in a complex daytime operation in the heart of Nuseirat on Saturday morning, raiding the two places at once and under fire.

Afterwards Israel said that it would continue fighting until all taken in the Oct. 7 attack that started the war are freed.

Meanwhile an official at a hospital in central Gaza said at least 94 bodies have arrived after heavy fighting in the rescue area.

Khalil Degran spoke to The Associated Press as fighting continued in the part of Gaza where the Israeli military rescued four hostages Saturday morning.

The official says more than 100 wounded have also arrived at Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al Balah.

Palestinians killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip are brought to al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza Strip, Saturday, June 8, 2024
Palestinians killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip are brought to al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza Strip, Saturday, June 8, 2024Ismael Abu Dayyah/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
Palestinians wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip arrive at al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza Strip, Saturday, June 8, 2024.
Palestinians wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip arrive at al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza Strip, Saturday, June 8, 2024. Ismael Abu Dayyah/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.

One of the rescued hostages reunited with her father

Argamani had been one of the most widely recognized hostages after being abducted from a music festival in southern Israel.

The video of her abduction was among the first to surface, with Argamani detained between two men on a motorcycle as she screamed, “Don’t kill me!”

Her mother, Liora, has stage four brain cancer and in April released a video pleading to see her daughter before she dies.

An elated Argamani spoke by phone with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In an audio message released by the government, Netanyahu is heard asking how she’s feeling. She tells him she is “very excited,” saying she hasn’t heard Hebrew in so long.

Two other rescued hostage, Andrey Kozlov and Almog Meir Jan arrived by helicopter at Sheba Medical Centre in Ramat Gan on Saturday.

The bodies of the dozens of Palestinians killed were taken to Al-Aqsa Hospital, where they were counted by Associated Press reporters.

They later saw more dead arrive at the hospital from the Nuseirat and Deir al-Balah areas as smoke rose in the distance.

Israel's military said it attacked “threats to our forces in the area.” The military said one fighter was seriously wounded.

Hamas took some 250 hostages during the Oct. 7 attack that killed about 1,200 people. About half were released in a weeklong cease-fire in November.

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Israel says more than 130 hostages remain, with about a quarter of those believed dead. Divisions are deepening over the best way to bring them home.

Pressure mounting on Israel to limit the bloodshed

Meanwhile, International pressure is mounting on Israel to limit civilian bloodshed in its war in Gaza which reached its eighth month on Friday.

More than 36,700 Palestinians have been killed in the war, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between fighters and civilians.

Palestinians face widespread hunger because fighting and Israeli restrictions have largely cut off the flow of aid.

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will return to the Middle East next week, seeking a breakthrough in the apparently stalled cease-fire negotiations.

Saturday’s hostage recovery operation brings the total of rescued captives to seven. Two men were rescued in February when troops stormed a heavily guarded apartment, and a woman was rescued in the aftermath of the October attack.

Israeli troops have recovered at least 16 bodies of hostages from Gaza, according to the government.

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant called Saturday's rescue “a heroic operation” and said the army will fight until all hostages are returned.

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Netanyahu faces growing pressure to end the fighting in Gaza. Many Israelis urge him to embrace a deal announced last month by the U.S. President Joe Biden, but far-right allies threaten to collapse his government if he does.

Israel is intensifying operations across central Gaza, where the hostages were rescued. On Thursday, an Israeli airstrike hit a U.N.-run school compound in Nuseirat, killing over 33 people inside the school, including three women and nine children.

Israel said some 30 militants were inside at the time and on Friday released the names of 17 militants it said were killed. However, only nine of those names matched with records of the dead from the hospital morgue.

One of the alleged militants was an 8-year-old boy, according to hospital records.

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