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Gaza war: Israel reports hostage rescue in Rafah attacks

Gaza war: Israel reports hostage rescue in Rafah attacks

Israel’s planned ground offensive in Rafah is causing massive criticism. According to the military, two hostages have now been released in nighttime air strikes. The news at a glance.

Israel’s military says it has rescued two hostages during massive nighttime attacks in the Rafah area in the south of the Gaza Strip. The two abductees, aged 60 and 70, were rescued during a joint operation by the military, security services and Israeli police during the night in Rafah and were in good health, the Israeli military said.

Shortly before, the army had announced a series of attacks in the Shabura area near Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinian internally displaced people are currently seeking protection. According to Palestinian reports, more than 100 people were killed in the night attacks, including children and women. The information provided by both sides could not initially be independently verified. Israel is planning a military offensive on Rafah, which is causing significant international criticism. According to a media report, the planning is still ongoing.

Palestinians report hundreds of injuries

The nightly series of attacks had ended, according to the Israeli military’s brief message on Telegram. No details were given. The Palestinian news agency Wafa reported early Monday morning, citing medical personnel in Rafah, that hundreds more people were injured in the intense attacks in various parts of the city of Rafah. According to the Arabic television channel Al-Jazeera, several houses and mosques were targeted by the Israeli military in the series of attacks. According to eyewitnesses, the Israeli military had previously attacked targets in the city from the air several times. Israel’s ground troops have not yet been deployed there.

Israel’s head of government justifies the army’s actions

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the country’s army on Friday to prepare an offensive on Rafah. “It is impossible to achieve the war goal of eliminating Hamas if four Hamas battalions remain in Rafah,” he said. The army should therefore prepare the evacuation of civilians in Rafah. In his view, the number of hostages remaining in the Gaza Strip justifies Israel’s massive military action. Asked how many hostages, to his knowledge, are still alive, Netanyahu replied in an interview with US broadcaster ABC News on Sunday: “I think enough to justify the efforts we are making.”

Terrorists from Hamas and other extremist groups killed 1,200 people and kidnapped another 250 during their attack on Israel on October 7th. Since then, Israel’s military has launched massive air strikes and a ground offensive against Hamas and its allies in Gaza. There are currently 136 people still in the hands of Hamas, but according to the Israeli military, at least around 30 of them are no longer alive. According to media reports, the number of people killed could now be as high as 50. The Israeli military said on Monday that security forces would continue to try “by all means” to bring the hostages home.

Rescued hostages in hospital

The two hostages who were freed during the night were also kidnapped in the Hamas massacre on October 7th to the sealed-off coastal area on the Mediterranean, it said. They have now been taken to a hospital for a medical examination. Israel is doing its best to bring back all the living hostages, Netanyahu said in the ABC interview, “and frankly the bodies too.” But he won’t go into that in more detail. The two goals of defeating Hamas and saving the lives of the hostages are not mutually exclusive, the Israeli Prime Minister continued.

Many relatives of the hostages accuse Netanyahu of torpedoing negotiations led by international mediators that are supposed to lead to a ceasefire in the war with Hamas and an exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners. According to the White House, US President Joe Biden’s telephone conversation with Netanyahu on Sunday focused on the shared goal of defeating Hamas and ensuring the long-term security of Israel and the Israeli people. Biden also insisted on “using the progress made in negotiations (with Hamas) to ensure the release of all hostages as quickly as possible.”

Biden calls for plan to protect people in Rafah

Before moving forward with the planned military offensive in Rafah in the Gaza Strip, Biden demanded that Israel come up with a convincing concept for the protection of the civilian population there. In the phone call with Netanyahu, Biden reiterated that “a credible and implementable plan is needed to ensure the safety of the more than a million people seeking refuge there,” said the White House in Washington. The US President also called for concrete steps towards more humanitarian aid.

Report: Plan for Rafah offensive still needs time

According to a media report, Israel’s army has not yet completed the planning of the military offensive on Rafah. It will “probably take some time” and has not yet been presented to Netanyahu, the New York Times quoted Israeli officials and analysts as saying. The strategy is “very complex”. Israel’s plan has met with international criticism. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) warned that this would be “a humanitarian catastrophe.” Egypt fears that desperate Palestinians could storm Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

The US government has also expressed concerns to Israel about the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which begins on March 10, the New York Times reported. An attack on Rafah during Ramadan could be seen as particularly provocative by Muslims in the region and beyond, it said. Israeli media reports had previously said that Netanyahu was assuming that Israel only had around a month due to international pressure and that the offensive on Rafah would therefore have to be completed by the start of Ramadan.

Avi Poet from Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party suggested that residents of the Israeli-sealed Gaza Strip could be relocated to an area west of Rafah along the coast, the New York Times reported. Yaakov Amidror, a former general and national security adviser, also sees other options, including some areas in the center of the coastal strip where the military has not yet advanced. The nearby city of Khan Yunis could also be an option once Israel has ended the military operation there against Hamas, it said.

What will be important on Monday

A delegation from the CDU/CSU parliamentary group led by Union faction and CDU leader Friedrich Merz is visiting Israel. Merz is accompanied by the deputy parliamentary group leaders Johann Wadephul and Jens Spahn as well as by the deputy leader of the German-Israeli parliamentary group, Gitta Connemann (all CDU): Among other things, talks are planned with Netanyahu and Israel’s President Herzog.

Source: Stern

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