War in the Middle East: Four Israeli hostages rescued from the Gaza Strip

War in the Middle East: Four Israeli hostages rescued from the Gaza Strip

Israel’s military frees four hostages from the Gaza Strip. In Israel, people protest for an agreement in the Gaza war. An overview of the events.

In a violent rescue operation in the center of the Gaza Strip, the Israeli armed forces say they have rescued four hostages from months of captivity. The hostages held by the Islamist Hamas were freed on Saturday in two operations in the refugee district of Nuseirat, the military said. The news of their release sparked great joy among the people of Israel.

In the evening, however, tens of thousands of people protested against the government across the country, demanding an agreement with Hamas to release the 120 remaining kidnapped people. Palestinians in the Gaza Strip reported dozens of deaths.

The daylight operation in Nuseirat had been in preparation for several weeks, said army spokesman Peter Leiner. He spoke of a complex and risky operation by the special forces. “The key factor was the surprise attack.” The two residential buildings guarded by Hamas in which the hostages were located were only a few hundred meters apart.

According to a report in the New York Times, a team of US hostage rescue experts in Israel helped prepare the operation by providing intelligence and “other logistical support”. The newspaper cited an American informant.

Kidnapped at music festival in October

According to the information, those freed were a 25-year-old woman and three men aged 21, 27 and 40. They were abducted from the Nova music festival on October 7, it was said. At that time, terrorists from Hamas and other extremist groups from the Gaza Strip invaded southern Israel, killing more than 1,200 people and taking over 250 hostages. The massacre sparked the war in the coastal region.

Israeli military spokesman Hagari said that 120 of the more than 250 people abducted from Israel were still held hostage in the Gaza Strip. It is feared that many of them are no longer alive.

According to the Hamas-controlled health authority, more than 36,000 people have been killed and over 83,000 injured since the start of the Gaza war. These figures, which do not distinguish between fighters and civilians, cannot currently be independently verified. Israel’s army is under strong international criticism for its actions in the Gaza Strip and the high number of civilian casualties.

Hamas threat

After the hostages were freed, Hamas spokesman Abu Obaida threatened on Telegram that “the operation will pose a great threat to the enemy’s prisoners.” It could have a negative impact on their lives, said Obaida, who is considered to be a member of Hamas’ military wing – the Al-Qassam Brigades.

The number of fatalities resulting from the rescue operation was unclear. According to an authority of the Islamist Hamas, 210 Palestinians were killed. In Nuseirat, around 400 people were injured. The figures could not be independently verified. The health authority controlled by Hamas and medical circles in the Gaza Strip had previously spoken of 55 deaths. Israel’s army spokesman Hagari, on the other hand, spoke in the evening of fewer than 100 fatalities. “I don’t know how many of them are terrorists,” he said.

According to the military wing of Hamas, some hostages were killed during the rescue. The terrorist organization’s statements could not be independently verified. Israel’s army said that Hamas uses psychological terror to achieve its goals. “Accordingly, their statements should be viewed with limited binding force.”

Hamas’ foreign affairs chief, Ismail Haniya, described Israel’s recent operations in Gaza as a “massacre” of the Palestinians. “The enemy continues its massacre against our people, our children and women, in Nuseirat and Deir al-Balah,” Haniya said. Israel had “failed militarily, politically and morally.” It remained unclear whether he was referring directly to the news of the release of the hostages from Hamas violence.

Rallies in Israel

After the liberation, numerous people gathered in Israel to demand a hostage deal and new elections. According to local media, tens of thousands gathered at a main rally in the coastal city of Tel Aviv. Thousands of demonstrators also gathered in Haifa and Jerusalem.

According to reports, there were clashes with the police during the protests in Tel Aviv. As the online newspaper “The Times of Israel” reported, citing the police, 33 protesters who wanted to block a street were arrested. For months, there have been repeated mass protests in Israel against the government and for the release of the hostages still being held in the Gaza Strip.

Hostage release welcomed internationally

EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell welcomed the release of the Israeli hostages during a military operation in the Gaza Strip, but at the same time expressed his horror at the reports of a “massacre of civilians”. “The bloodbath must stop immediately,” he demanded on Platform X. “The reports from Gaza of another massacre of civilians are appalling.” Regarding the release of the kidnapped people, he said: “We share the relief of their families and demand the release of all remaining hostages.”

Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock expressed her hope for an end to the Gaza war. “Hamas has it in its hands and must agree to the proposal for a ceasefire agreement,” the Green politician told the newspapers of the Funke Media Group. “It is on the table and can be the beginning of an end to the war.”

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) had also previously described the release as an “important sign of hope”. Hamas must finally release all hostages and the war must end.” US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron also welcomed the release of the hostages.

Protests in Washington

At a protest in front of the White House in the US capital Washington, people dressed in red with a long red banner recalled the “red line” that US President Biden had drawn in March with regard to a large-scale ground offensive by the Israeli army in the city of Rafah. Posters called for a ceasefire and a halt to US arms deliveries to Israel, among other things. Accusations of genocide were also raised. However, the protest was peaceful in the afternoon, as a dpa reporter on site reported. When asked, a police officer estimated the number of participants at “several thousand”, but could not provide any more precise information.

Source: Stern

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