At least 94 Palestinians are killed in heavy fighting in Gaza area around hostage rescue
Posted: June 8, 2024 - 9:24am

JERUSALEM (AP) — An official at a hospital in central Gaza says at least 94 bodies have arrived during heavy fighting.

Khalil Degran spoke to The Associated Press as fighting continued in the part of Gaza where the Israeli military rescued four hostages Saturday morning.

The official says more than 100 wounded have also arrived at Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al Balah.

Israel said after the hostage release that it would continue fighting until all taken in the Oct. 7 attack that started the war are freed.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel said Saturday it rescued four hostages who were kidnapped in the Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7, the largest such recovery operation since the war began in Gaza. At least 55 Palestinians including children were killed as heavy fighting continued around the sites in central Gaza, the Health Ministry said.

Israel's army said it rescued Noa Argamani, 25; Almog Meir Jan, 21; Andrey Kozlov, 27; and Shlomi Ziv, 40, in two locations in a complex daytime operation in the heart of Nuseirat on Saturday morning, raiding the two places at once and under fire.

Argamani had been one of the most widely recognized hostages after being abducted from a music festival in southern Israel. The video of her abduction was among the first to surface, with Argamani detained between two men on a motorcycle as she screamed, “Don’t kill me!”

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

An elated Argamani spoke by phone with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In an audio message released by the government, Netanyahu is heard asking how she’s feeling. She tells him she is “very excited,” saying she hasn’t heard Hebrew in so long.

The bodies of the dozens of Palestinians killed were taken to Al-Aqsa Hospital, where they were counted by Associated Press reporters. They later saw more dead arrive at the hospital from the Nuseirat and Deir al-Balah areas as smoke rose in the distance.

Israel's military said it attacked “threats to our forces in the area.” The military said one fighter was seriously wounded.

Hamas took some 250 hostages during the Oct. 7 attack that killed about 1,200 people. About half were released in a weeklong cease-fire in November. About 120 hostages remain, with 43 pronounced dead. Survivors include about 15 women, two children under the age of 5 and two men in their 80s.

Divisions are deepening over the best way to bring them home.

International pressure mounts on Israel to limit civilian bloodshed in its war in Gaza, which reached its eighth month on Friday with more than 36,700 Palestinians killed, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between fighters and civilians. Palestinians face widespread hunger because fighting and Israeli restrictions have largely cut off the flow of aid.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will return to the Middle East next week, seeking a breakthrough in the apparently stalled cease-fire negotiations.

Saturday’s hostage recovery operation brings the total of rescued captives to seven. Two men were rescued in February when troops stormed a heavily guarded apartment, and a woman was rescued in the aftermath of the October attack. Israeli troops have recovered at least 16 bodies of hostages from Gaza, according to the government.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant called Saturday's rescue “a heroic operation” and said the army will fight until all hostages are returned.

Netanyahu faces growing pressure to end the fighting in Gaza. Many Israelis urge him to embrace a deal announced last month by U.S. President Joe Biden, but far-right allies threaten to collapse his government if he does.

Israel is intensifying operations across central Gaza, where the hostages were rescued. On Thursday, an Israeli airstrike hit a U.N.-run school compound in Nuseirat, killing over 33 people inside the school, including three women and nine children.

Israel said some 30 militants were inside at the time and on Friday released the names of 17 militants it said were killed. However, only nine of those names matched with records of the dead from the hospital morgue.

One of the alleged militants was an 8-year-old boy, according to hospital records.