Home News After weeks of planning, Israel’s hostage rescue operation was a success in...

After weeks of planning, Israel’s hostage rescue operation was a success in seconds


When four Israelis woke up in Gaza City on Saturday, they were already being held captive. Held hostage by Hamas for 245 daysThe buildings where they were held were two low-rise concrete apartment buildings that looked similar to other nearby civilian residential areas that housed Palestinian families.

Within a few hours, the prisoners Three men and a womanwill be reunited with his family, the result of a dangerous, long-planned rescue operation that will involve the full force and devastation of the Israeli army.

“I’m so excited. I haven’t heard Hebrew in a long time,” hostage Noah Agamani, 26, told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call after his release.

The Israeli military said the rescue operation involved hundreds of intelligence officers and two teams of commandos who simultaneously stormed the house where the hostages were being held.

According to a video released by the military, a gun battle broke out between soldiers and Hamas guards in an apartment where male hostages were being held. Then, amid a hail of bullets, a truck carrying three hostages and a wounded Israeli officer broke down and was surrounded by militants, Israeli officials said.

The military said the air force began striking dozens of nearby targets to give rescuers enough time and cover to free the captives. Many Palestinians were unaware of the fighting until they heard the bombs going off.

Dozens of locals, including children Killed The Palestinian civilian death toll in the rescue operation reached 200. Health authorities in Hamas-controlled areas put the death toll at more than 270. The Israeli military said the death toll was less than 100. Neither the Israeli military nor Palestinian health officials provided specific figures on the number of civilians and fighters killed in the attack.

Weeks before the attack, Israeli intelligence officials identified two buildings about 600 feet apart where they believed the hostages were being held.

In May, Israeli intelligence officials determined that Ms. Algamani was being held in an apartment near the Nusserat market. On Oct. 7, the militants captured Ms. Algamani at a music festival in a widely seen video, the Israeli military’s chief spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, told reporters. Another nearby apartment held three male hostages: Almog Meir Jan, 22, Andrey Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 41.

The Israeli military said the house where the two men were being held belonged to Abdullah Al-Jamal, whose death was confirmed on Sunday by the Gaza government’s media office, which said he had worked for the Palestine News Agency, a Hamas-affiliated news agency.

Admiral Hajari said: “We decided to carry out the operation in both apartments because if we only chose one, the risk of terrorists killing hostages in the other apartment would be too high.”

Admiral Hajari said that in preparation for the mission, the military “built models of these houses so that we could practice,” adding that coordination between the two teams had to be “as precise as brain surgery” so that mistakes by one team would not cause problems for the other.

As the sun was about to reach its scorching peak at midday on Saturday morning, residents of Nusairat left their scorching apartment buildings to go to work, to the market and to visit family.

“Everything is normal, the streets are full of life, people are buying and selling things,” said Bayan Khaled abu Amr, 32, who left her home that morning to visit her uncle.

Fifty miles away, Israeli officers packed into the command room of the Shin Bet security agency in Tel Aviv. Admiral Hagari said: “There is a very, very tense atmosphere in the air.”

At around 11 a.m., General Herzi Halevi, the Israeli army chief of staff, issued a “go” order, authorizing commandos from Israel’s YAMAM counter-terrorist unit to begin the raid.

Israeli officials said soldiers from the unit activated two vehicles that looked like local trucks and headed to each building where hostages were being held.

Khalil abdul Qader al-Tahrawi, 60, a shop owner, said he was sitting outside his shop when he saw men in uniforms of the Qassam Brigades, an offshoot of Hamas militants, approach the building where the three were found.

He said the group struck him as “suspicious and strange,” especially because they “came up the building with ladders and then came down again, pointing guns all around.” He said he believed they were Israeli commandos.

Other witnesses also described the men, who they believed were Israeli special forces personnel but were dressed in civilian clothes.

Israeli officials declined to say whether Israeli forces camouflaged the attack.

Soon after General Halevy approved the operation, troops raided both buildings simultaneously. Israeli officials said Ms. Agamemani was held in a locked room and her captors were quickly killed before they realized what was happening.

“Inside Noah Agamemani’s building,” Admiral Hagari said, “our forces surprised them.”

As the team tasked with rescuing Ms. Al-Ghamani drove her to a helicopter evacuation point on Gaza’s Mediterranean coast, a team tasked with rescuing three men in another building began coming under fire, Admiral Hajari said.

At the time, Arnon Zmora, a 36-year-old YAMAM unit officer, was shot and wounded, according to Admiral Hajari. Body camera footage released by Israeli Border Police showed Israeli troops finding the male hostage inside a residential apartment building, though they were still exchanging fire with the militants off-camera.

In the video, the soldier’s face was blurred, bloody scenes were deleted, the hostages left the building and ran around in the woods, with gunfire ringing around them.

“Members of Hamas shot at them,” said Mr. Tahlavi, the shop owner.

More militants joined the fight, “running down the street with RPGs,” according to Admiral Hajari. “There was heavy fire all around us,” he said.

As Agamemani approached the beach in a car, another truck being used for the rescue broke down, according to Israeli officials, who requested anonymity to discuss the secretive operation. To provide cover for the broken-down truck, the Air Force began bombing the area nearby, effectively creating a fire shield, the officials said.

“Suddenly, I heard a loud bang and the sound of several missiles coming from around the mosque,” said Ms Abu Amr, who was out visiting her uncle. “I don’t remember the exact time, but it was probably 11:20am.”

“Once again, we heard a huge, loud missile and gray smoke rose up,” Ms. Abu Amr added. “People started shouting.” In the chaos of the bombardment, she said, “children were screaming; women were falling as they ran.”

Israeli ground forces stationed nearby reached the stalled truck and moved the hostages and wounded officer Chief Inspector Zmora to another vehicle, Israeli officials said.

From there, they raced to the beach, where the second of two helicopters was waiting for them. The first helicopter had already taken off, carrying Ms. Agamemani.

Images released by the military showed soldiers escorting hostages along a beach while helicopters kicked up clouds of dust.

Admiral Hajari said: “We call hostages diamonds, so we say the diamonds are in our hands.”

Chief Inspector Zmora was taken to an Israeli hospital where he later died from his injuries.

The corridors and hallways of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah, the last major medical center in central Gaza, remained “packed” with new patients on Sunday, according to hospital official Khalil Daqran, who added that most of the bodies had been buried or claimed by relatives.

Abdelkarim al-Harazin, 28, a doctor at the facility, said the facility was already overcrowded before Israel’s rescue operation in nearby Nusserat and is now even more overcrowded.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said the number of injured was as high as 700.

Alan Boxman and Adam Rasgon Contributed reporting.

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