Home News Israel’s euphoria over hostage rescue may be fading

Israel’s euphoria over hostage rescue may be fading

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Israel launched a heavy aerial bombardment and ground operation Saturday in an effort to rescue four hostages in the central Gaza town of Nusserat, killing more than 200 people, according to two hospital officials in the area.

Residents said it was the worst attack they could remember in the eight-month war. A hospital official said Israel had struck a busy market, and video footage after the attack showed bloody bodies lying on the ground in what appeared to be a market under attack.

Other video footage showed a powerful airstrike exploding near people, who ran for cover.

Dr. Khalil Daklan, spokesman for the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in nearby Deir al-Balah, and Marwan Abu Nasser, acting administrative director of the Al-Awda Hospital in Nusserat, said the two hospitals together treated more than 200 people killed and many wounded in Saturday’s attack. Hospital officials said many of the dead were women and children.

Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari estimated the casualties at fewer than 100 but did not specify whether they were killed, wounded or a combination of the two.

The New York Times was unable to independently verify the death toll, and it was unclear how many of them were civilians and how many were Hamas militants.

Dr. Dockland said that after a few hours, some of the dead had been buried by their families, while others had not yet been claimed.

“The unidentified martyrs are still in the morgue. It is difficult to identify them,” he said. “It is difficult to identify them because some of the martyrs that arrived are just the remains of children, women and the elderly.”

Tens of thousands of Gaza’s Palestinian residents have fled to Nusserat in recent weeks to escape Israeli bombardment in other parts of the region, such as the southern city of Rafah, where Israel recently launched a new offensive.

Khaled al-Saadouni, a young man who witnessed the Israeli operation in Nusserat, told Reuters he saw Israeli special forces arriving in Apache attack helicopters and a white car carrying Israeli troops.

“Apache helicopters started bombing and shooting directly at the crowd,” he said, according to Reuters, adding that there were many dead and wounded. “People were running everywhere,” he said.

He said there were many displaced Palestinians taking refuge in the areas that came under attack.

“We took 10 injured people in one ambulance. One of them was hit directly. We managed to get out of the alley with great difficulty,” he said.

Khitam Awad, a 35-year-old teacher, said she was teaching 25 primary school students and handing out gifts at her home when the Israeli attack occurred nearby.

“We were near the site of the attack,” she told The New York Times. “We don’t know how we escaped unscathed.”

She added that the attack lasted two hours and was “frenzied” and they were unable to leave the house. One of her colleagues, another teacher, later discovered that two of her relatives had been killed. She said they were huddled in a room with students while homes around them were under attack.

“We heard the tanks,” Ms. Awad said. “Our nerves were on edge, we didn’t know what was happening around us, bombs, rockets and tanks.”

At Al-Aqsa Hospital, bodies of the wounded and dead filled wards and corridors, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.

“The situation is very bad,” said Dr. Dockland. “We don’t have enough beds for all the injured. There are five times as many injured as there are beds in the hospital.”

As a result, many of the dead and injured had to be taken to another nearby hospital, Al Awda Hospital in Nusseirat.

“Awda Hospital is a maternity hospital, but it has been converted to receive the wounded that Al-Aqsa Hospital does not have space for,” he said.

Mr. Abu Nasser, acting administrative director of the Al-Awda Hospital, said the health facility had limited capacity to accommodate bodies and by the end of the day, about 100 bodies brought to the hospital had been taken away by their families for burial.

“We’re a small hospital,” he said. “We simply don’t have the space.”

Dr. Daklan called on Palestinians in Gaza to donate blood at a press conference outside Al-Aqsa Hospital and called on the international community to help Gaza’s hospitals.

The influx of wounded people comes as the few functioning hospitals in Gaza are struggling due to continued Israeli air strikes, shortages of medicines and medical equipment, and overloaded generators.

Bilal Shibai Contributed reporting.

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