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HomeLatest NewsIsrael kills 67 Palestinians in operation to free 2 hostages

Israel kills 67 Palestinians in operation to free 2 hostages

13 February 2024

Israeli forces rescued two hostages early Monday, storming a heavily guarded apartment in a densely packed town in the Gaza Strip as airstrikes carried out to cover the raid killed more than 60 Palestinians, including women and children, an AP report said.

The rescue in Rafah briefly lifted the spirits of Israelis shaken by the plight of the dozens of hostages held by Hamas. The nation is still reeling from the Hamas’ cross-border raid last year.

The overnight bombardment brought devastation in Rafah, which is packed with some 1.4 million people, most of whom fled their homes elsewhere in Gaza to escape fighting. Associated Press footage showed a large area of flattened houses, tattered tents and lines of bloodied bodies brought into nearby hospitals.

Israel’s offensive has killed more than 28,000 Palestinians in the territory, displaced over 80% of the population and set off a massive humanitarian crisis.

More than 12,300 Palestinian minors – children and young teens – have been killed in the conflict, Gaza’s Health Ministry said Monday. About 8,400 women were also among those killed. That means minors 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 breakdown at the request of the AP. Israel claims to have killed about 10,000 Hamas fighters but has not provided evidence.

In Hamas’ cross-border raid on Oct. 7, an estimated 1,200 people, were killed, and Hamas took 250 people captive, according to Israeli authorities.

Israel has described Rafah as the last remaining Hamas stronghold in the territory and signaled that its ground offensive may soon target the town on the southern edge of the Gaza Strip.

Israel says about 100 hostages remain in Hamas captivity after dozens were freed during a cease-fire in November.

Israeli military spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said special forces broke into a second-floor apartment in Rafah under fire at 1:49 a.m. Monday, accompanied a minute later by airstrikes on surrounding areas. He said Hamas fighters were guarding the captives and that members of the rescue team shielded the hostages with their bodies as the battle erupted.

The army identified those rescued as Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, who were abducted from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak on Oct. 7. They also hold Argentinian citizenship. They are among just three hostages to be rescued; a female soldier was rescued in November.

The rescue, which Hagari said was based on precise intelligence and planned for some time, is a morale booster for Israelis but a small step toward winning the release of the remaining hostages, who are believed to be spread out and hidden in tunnels.

Dozens Killed in Strikes
The airstrikes hit jam-packed Rafah in the middle of the night, and dozens of explosions could be heard around 2 a.m. Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the Health Ministry, said at least 67 people, including women and children, were killed in the strikes.

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

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

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

“Let Netanyahu come and see: Is this one of your designated targets?” he said.

Hamas’ Al-Aqsa television station earlier quoted an unnamed Hamas official as saying any invasion of Rafah would “blow up” the talks mediated by the United States, Egypt and Qatar.

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