Four hostages rescued from Gaza as Palestinian death toll mounts

Her mother, Liora, has stage four brain cancer and in April released a video pleading to see her daughter before she dies.

The Israeli military had said earlier on Saturday it was targeting militant infrastructure in al-Nuseirat, an unusual announcement because it does not normally report on its operations while they are still under way.

Al-Nuseirat, a historic Palestinian refugee camp, has been subjected to heavy Israeli bombing during the war and there also has been fierce ground fighting in its eastern areas.

Gaza’s health ministry meanwhile reported that the Israeli military assaults in al-Nuseirat had killed and wounded dozens of people.

The bodies of nearly 100 Palestinians killed were taken to Al-Aqsa Hospital, where Khalil Degran told The Associated Press more than 100 wounded also arrived. AP reporters also saw the dead brought to the hospital from the Nuseirat and Deir al-Balah areas, as smoke rose in the distance.


“My two cousins were killed, and two other cousins were seriously injured. They did not commit any sin. They were sitting at home,” one relative said in the bloodied chaos at the hospital.

Israel’s military said it attacked “threats to our forces in the area.” The military said one commando died from his wounds.

A health ministry official put the death toll at more than 96, saying emergency response teams were trying to ferry the dead and wounded to hospital in the nearby city of Deir al-Balah, but that many bodies were still lying in the streets, including around a market district.

Local residents said al-Nuseirat had come under heavy Israeli drone and air strikes, and that those who were killed included women and children.

Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said the rescue operation was carried out under fire in the heart of a residential neighbourhood where he said Hamas had been hiding captives among Gaza civilians under armed guard of militants.

In a televised news conference, Hagari said one Israeli soldier had been badly wounded. The Israeli forces returned fire, Hagari he said, including with airstrikes.

The Gaza war shows no signs of slowing even as Israel’s chief ally the United States presses for a ceasefire and a deal that would free the remaining hostages held by Hamas in exchange for the release of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.

In response to Israel’s military offensive in the al-Nuseirat area on Saturday, Hamas’ political leader Ismail Haniyeh said the group would accept no deal that does not achieve security for Palestinians,

“Our people will not surrender and the resistance will continue to defend our rights in the face of this criminal enemy,” Haniyeh said in a statement.

“If the [Israeli] occupation believes that it can impose its choices on us by force, then it is delusional,” he added.

The war has destabilised the wider Middle East, drawing in Hamas’ main backer Iran and its heavily armed Lebanese ally Hezbollah, which Israeli officials are threatening to go to war with on Israel’s northern border.

News of the hostage rescue saw Israel’s centrist war cabinet minister Benny Gantz delay a statement he was due to give on Saturday in which he was widely expected to announce his resignation from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s emergency government.

Gantz last month presented the conservative prime minister with a June 8 deadline to come up with a clear “day-after” strategy for Gaza.

The departure of Gantz’s centrist party would not pose an immediate threat to Netanyahu’s governing coalition, which controls 64 of parliament’s 120 seats, but it could have a serious impact nonetheless. With Gantz gone, Netanyahu would lose the backing of a centrist bloc that has helped broaden support for the government in Israel and abroad, at a time of increasing diplomatic and domestic pressure eight months into the Gaza war.

Gantz’s exit might also indicate limited prospects of success in the latest ceasefire efforts, according to political analysts, who say he would be more likely to stay on if a deal appeared more probable.

Reuters, AP

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