‘Ultimate surprise’: How an Israeli raid freed 4 hostages and killed scores of Palestinians in Gaza

‘Ultimate surprise’: How an Israeli raid freed 4 hostages and killed scores of Palestinians in Gaza
Palestinians walk and travel along a street, in an area where houses have been destroyed in Israeli strikes, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, June 9, 2024. (Reuters)
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Updated 10 June 2024
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‘Ultimate surprise’: How an Israeli raid freed 4 hostages and killed scores of Palestinians in Gaza

‘Ultimate surprise’: How an Israeli raid freed 4 hostages and killed scores of Palestinians in Gaza
  • There have been back-to-back mass casualties as densely populated areas are bombed

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip: They arrived in the middle of the day, when the squat concrete buildings of the Nuseirat refugee camp are stifling and the narrow streets outside are filled with people. No one suspected a thing until the shots rang out.
The Israeli raid caught everyone off guard, from the Hamas militants guarding four hostages in two different buildings to the thousands of civilians who soon found themselves running for their lives through a blistering crossfire.
By the time it was over, four Israeli hostages had been brought home alive and mostly unscathed, at least physically, and at least 274 Palestinians, and an Israeli commando, had been killed.
For Israel, it was the most successful operation of the eight-month war, bringing nationwide elation and removing some of the stain from the army’s unprecedented collapse on Oct. 7. For Palestinians, it was a day of horror that sent hundreds of dead and wounded flooding into already beleaguered hospitals.
Here’s how it unfolded, according to the Israeli military and Palestinian witnesses.
‘THE ULTIMATE SUPRISE’
Noa Argamani, a 26-year-old who had emerged as an icon of the hostage crisis, was being held in one apartment and three male hostages — Almog Meir Jan, 22, Andrey Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 41, were in another about 200 meters (yards) away. All had been abducted from a desert rave-turned-massacre site during the Oct. 7 attack that ignited the war.
They had been moved among different locations but were never held in Hamas’ notorious tunnels. At the time of their rescue they were in locked rooms guarded by Hamas gunmen. Israeli intelligence figured out where they were and commandos spent weeks practicing the raid on life-size models of the buildings, according to Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military spokesman.
“It needs to be like a surgical operation, like a brain operation,” he said.
He said they decided to strike at midday because it would be the “ultimate suprise,” and to target the two buildings simultaneously. Planners feared that if they hit one first, the captors would hear the commotion and kill the hostages in the other.
Hagari declined to say how the Israeli forces made their way to the heart of Nuseirat, a crowded, built-up refugee camp in central Gaza dating back to the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Based on previous operations, at least some of the special forces who took part in the raid likely dressed like Palestinians and spoke fluent Arabic.
Kamal Benaji, a Palestinian displaced from Gaza City who was living in a tent in central Nuseirat, said he saw a small truck with a car in front and another behind pull up in front of a building on the street where he had pitched his tent.
The commandos sprang from the truck and one of them threw a grenade into the house. “Clashes and explosions broke out everywhere,” he said.
A VEHICLE GETS STUCK AND A FIREFIGHT ERUPTS
The rescue of Argamani seems to have gone smoothly, while the team extracting the three other hostages ran into trouble.
Chief Inspector Arnon Zamora, an officer in an elite police commando unit, was mortally wounded during the break-in, in which all the Hamas guards were killed, Amos Harel, a veteran defense correspondent, wrote in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper. Then the rescue vehicle carrying the three hostages got stuck in the camp, he said.
Palestinian militants armed with machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades opened fire on the rescuers, as Israel called in heavy strikes from land and air to cover their evacuation to the coast. “A lot of fire was around us,” Hagari said.
It was this bombardment that appears to have killed and wounded so many Palestinians.
Mohamed Al-Habash, another displaced Palestinian, was in the Nuseirat market looking for humanitarian aid or inexpensive food when the heavy bombing began. He took cover with a half-dozen other people in a damaged home. He said many other houses were hit.
“We heard very loud bombing and heavy gunfire,” he said. “We saw many fighter jets flying over the area.”
The Israeli rescuers eventually made it to the coast. Zamora was evacuated by helicopter and later died of his wounds in a hospital. The military renamed the operation in his honor.
Footage released by the military showed soldiers walking the hostages along the beach toward the water and helicopters whipping up clouds of sand as they took off.
‘We called the hostages diamonds, so we say we have the diamonds in our hands,” Hagari said.
THE AFTERMATH
At the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in the nearby town of Deir Al-Balah, the dead and wounded arrived in waves — men, women and children. It’s one of the last functioning medical facilities in the area and was already packed with people wounded in heavy strikes in recent days.
Samuel Johann, a coordinator with the international charity Doctors Without Borders, which operates in the hospital, said it was a “nightmare.”
“There have been back-to-back mass casualties as densely populated areas are bombed. It’s way beyond what anyone could deal with in a functional hospital, let alone with the scarce resources we have here,” he said in a statement released by the group.
The Gaza Health Ministry said 274 Palestinians were killed and around 700 were wounded. The ministry does not distinguish between civilians and combatants in its tallies, but said the dead included 64 children and 57 women.
Khulood Shalaq, who was being treated at another hospital with her wounded 1-year-old nephew, said 14 members of her family were killed in the raid, with some still buried in the rubble. She said at one point she saw four helicopters launching missiles into the camp.
“The streets are filled with dead bodies,” she said.
Hamas later released a video claiming that three other hostages, including an American, were killed in the bombardment, but it provided no evidence. The army said it does “not respond to statements by terrorist organizations.”
Hamas and other militants are still holding some 120 hostages, around a third of whom are believed to have died. Hagari acknowledged that a ceasefire deal would bring home more hostages than military operations, but said Israeli forces need to “create conditions” to bring them home.
“We are doing things that are unimaginable, and we will keep on doing things that are unimagined,” he said.


Egypt keen to work with partners to find swift solution to Sudan crisis, foreign minister says

Egypt keen to work with partners to find swift solution to Sudan crisis, foreign minister says
Updated 14 sec ago
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Egypt keen to work with partners to find swift solution to Sudan crisis, foreign minister says

Egypt keen to work with partners to find swift solution to Sudan crisis, foreign minister says
  • African Union official praises Cairo during talks in Ghana for its pivotal role in efforts to enhance regional security and stability
  • Abdelatty emphasized the need to support the Somali government’s efforts to enhance security and stability

CAIRO: Egypt earned praise during talks on Monday in Accra, Ghana, for the pivotal role it plays in efforts to enhance security and stability on the African continent.

Bankole Adeoye, the African Union’s commissioner for political affairs, peace and security, said he was keen to continue to coordinate with Cairo on all priority issues related to the bloc.

It came as he held talks with Badr Abdelatty, Egypt’s minister of foreign affairs, emigration and Egyptian expatriates, on the sidelines of the sixth Mid-Year Coordination Meeting of the African Union and the Regional Economic Communities.

They discussed the latest political and security developments in the crisis in Sudan and agreed on the need to unite the country’s civil political forces, preserve national unity and institutions, and coordinate regional and international mediation.

Abdelatty said Egypt was aware of the seriousness of the situation and eager to work with all partners and mechanisms to resolve the crisis swiftly. He stressed the importance of fully involving Sudan in talks about ways to resolve the situation, to preserve “our Sudanese brothers’ ownership of these solutions and proposals.”

The minister welcomed consultations and coordination with the African Union’s commissioner on peace and security in Africa. He said Egypt remains committed to support of the organization and its agencies, and to participation in its Peace and Security Council, in pursuit of peace and stability.

Abdelatty emphasized the need for increased consultation and coordination between member states and the union’s agencies in response to escalating security challenges on the continent, the expanding scope of conflicts and the associated human suffering.

He also outlined Egypt’s agenda and planned activities for its chairmanship of the Peace and Security Council in October. He said its plans prioritize the operationalization of the African Union Center for Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development, an effort that President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has led within the union to support countries facing multiple crises.

Egypt welcomed the approval by the Peace and Security Council of a request from the Somali government to extend the time frame for the third phase of the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia, Abdelatty said. He highlighted plans for the deployment of a new mission in the country when the current one expires, and emphasized the need to support the Somali government’s efforts to enhance security and stability.

Adeoye and Abdelatty also discussed other issues of mutual concern, including the Great Lakes issue, the Renaissance Dam, security challenges in the Red Sea, and the situation in the Horn of Africa.


Iran’s Revolutionary Guards intercepted UAE-managed tanker, Ambrey says

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards intercepted UAE-managed tanker, Ambrey says
Updated 9 min 24 sec ago
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Iran’s Revolutionary Guards intercepted UAE-managed tanker, Ambrey says

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards intercepted UAE-managed tanker, Ambrey says
  • Vessel had loaded marine gas oil off the coast of Iraq and was destined for Sharjah when it was intercepted on Sunday 61NM southwest of Iran’s port of Bushehr

DUBAI: Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have intercepted a Togo-flagged, UAE-managed products tanker carrying 1,500 tons of marine gas oil, British security firm Ambrey said on Monday.
The vessel had loaded marine gas oil off the coast of Iraq and was destined for UAE’s Sharjah when it was intercepted on Sunday 61 nautical miles southwest of Iran’s port of Bushehr, Ambrey said.
Ambrey added that the incident is unlikely to be politically motivated and is not assessed as a ‘war’ event.
The interception was likely a counter-smuggling operation by the IRGC, as the vessel’s “trading behavior was consistent with previous IRGC target profile,” Ambrey said.
Iran, which has some of the world’s cheapest fuel prices due to heavy subsidies and the plunge in the value of its currency, has been fighting rampant fuel smuggling to neighboring countries.
No further information was provided regarding the fate of the vessel.


UN warns Iraq becoming major regional drug conduit

Iraq’s premier Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani attends an anti-drug conference held with regional officials in Baghdad on July 22, 2024.
Iraq’s premier Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani attends an anti-drug conference held with regional officials in Baghdad on July 22, 2024.
Updated 22 July 2024
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UN warns Iraq becoming major regional drug conduit

Iraq’s premier Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani attends an anti-drug conference held with regional officials in Baghdad on July 22, 2024.
  • “Iraq appears to be at the nexus of regional trafficking routes for both methamphetamine and captagon,” UNODC said
  • Authorities in Iraq regularly announce large seizures of captagon, much of it moved across the border with Syria

BAGHDAD: Iraqi authorities seized record quantities of the potent stimulant captagon last year, at an estimated value of up to $144 million, with the country increasingly a critical drug conduit, a UN report said Monday.
“Iraq has been experiencing a dramatic surge in drug trafficking and consumption for the past five years,” according to a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report.
In 2023 alone, authorities “seized a record-high 24 million captagon tablets,” the equivalent of over 4.1 tons, with an estimated “retail value” of between $84 million and $144 million, it said.
“Iraq appears to be at the nexus of regional trafficking routes for both methamphetamine and captagon,” UNODC said, adding that it is “becoming a critical juncture in the complex trafficking dynamics observed in the Near and Middle East region.”
Captagon seizures in Iraq “reportedly tripled between 2022 and 2023, and overall amounts seized in 2023 are 34 times higher than in 2019.”
An amphetamine derived from a once-legal treatment for narcolepsy and attention disorder, captagon today is trafficked through several Middle Eastern countries, with Syria the main country of origin.
Authorities in conflict-scarred Iraq regularly announce large seizures of captagon, much of it moved across the porous 600-kilometer (370-mile) border with war-torn Syria.
According to UNODC, 82 percent of the captagon seized in the region between 2019 and 2023 originated in Syria, followed by neighboring Lebanon, at 17 percent.
Iraq faces an explosion in domestic drug use, with the repeated crises that have gripped the conflict-ridden country of 43 million people driving up usage.
During an anti-drug conference attended by regional officials, Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani called for regional cooperation.
“Coordinating and cooperating to pursue and dismantle drug gangs will serve regional and international security,” he said, adding that “Iraq is open to all cooperation” to fight “cross-border crime.”
“We will support any effort aiming to eliminate drug hubs, manufacturing stations, and cutting off their supply chains.”


UN expert urges probe of Iran ‘genocide’ in 1980s

UN expert urges probe of Iran ‘genocide’ in 1980s
Updated 22 July 2024
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UN expert urges probe of Iran ‘genocide’ in 1980s

UN expert urges probe of Iran ‘genocide’ in 1980s
  • UN Special rapporteur says the Iranian regime and its leaders should not be allowed to escape the consequences of their crimes

GENEVA: A United Nations expert called Monday for an international investigation into a range of “atrocity crimes” committed in Iran in connection with a purge of dissidents in the 1980s.
“There should be no impunity for such gross human rights violations, regardless of when they were committed,” said Javaid Rehman, the UN’s independent special rapporteur on the rights situation in Iran, insisting that “the Iranian regime and its leaders should not be allowed to escape the consequences of their crimes against humanity and genocide.”


Hostages forum says two captives died while held by Hamas in Gaza

Hostages forum says two captives died while held by Hamas in Gaza
Updated 22 July 2024
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Hostages forum says two captives died while held by Hamas in Gaza

Hostages forum says two captives died while held by Hamas in Gaza
  • The forum did not provide any information on how they had died

JERUSALEM: Israeli campaign group the Hostages and Missing Families Forum announced on Monday that two captives held by Hamas in Gaza had died.
The deaths of Yagev Buchshtab, 35, and Alex Dancyg, 76, who were abducted during the October 7 attack by Hamas, are a “stark reminder of the urgency” to bring the hostages home, the forum said in a statement.
It did not provide any information on how they had died.
“Their bodies are being held by the Hamas terror organization,” the Israeli military said in a separate statement.
“The circumstances of their death in Hamas captivity are being examined by all the professional authorities.”
Buchshtab was abducted from his home in Kibbutz Nirim along with his wife Rimon Buchshtab-Kirsht, who was released after 50 days in captivity, the forum said.
Dancyg, who was born to Holocaust survivors, worked at Yad Vashem, the International Holocaust Remembrance Institute, and trained thousands of guides there, it added.
Hostages who were held captive with him reported that Dancyg spent his time in captivity giving history lectures to fellow captives, the forum said.
“Yagev and Alex were taken alive and should have returned alive to their families and to their country,” the forum said.
“Their death in captivity is a tragic reflection of the consequences of foot-dragging in negotiations,” it said referring to ceasefire talks that have dragged on for months.
During the October 7 attack, Hamas militants seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom are still in Gaza, including 44 the Israeli military and officials say are dead.
The attack by Hamas resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
Israel’s retaliatory campaign has killed at least 39,006 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to data from the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory.