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Israel rescues four hostages kidnapped during Hamas attack on October 7. At least 94 Palestinians are killed | National news

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel said Saturday it has rescued four hostages kidnapped during the Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7, the largest such recovery operation since the start of the war in Gaza. At least 94 Palestinians, including children, were killed as heavy fighting continued around sites in central Gaza, the Health Ministry said.

The Israeli army said it rescued 25-year-old Noa Argamani; Almog Meir Jan, 21; Andrei Kozlov, 27; and Shlomi Ziv, 40, at two locations during a complex day operation in the heart of Nuseirat on Saturday morning, with the two places simultaneously raided and under fire.

Argamani was one of the most recognized hostages after he was kidnapped from a music festival in southern Israel. The video of her kidnapping was one of the first to come to light, showing Argamani being held between two men on a motorcycle as she screamed, “Don’t kill me!”

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

A delighted Argamani spoke by telephone with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In an audio message released by the government, Netanyahu is asked how she feels. She tells him she’s “very excited,” and says she hasn’t heard Hebrew in so long.

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

The Israeli military said it had attacked “threats to our forces in the area.” The military said one fighter was seriously injured.

Hamas took some 250 hostages in the October 7 attack, which killed about 1,200 people. About half were released during a weeklong ceasefire in November. Israel says more than 130 hostages remain, about a quarter of whom are believed dead. The division over the best way to bring them home is growing.

International pressure is mounting 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 makes no distinction between fighters and civilians. Palestinians face widespread hunger as fighting and Israeli restrictions have largely cut off the flow of aid.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will return to the Middle East next week, seeking a breakthrough in apparently stalled ceasefire negotiations.

Saturday’s hostage operation brings the total of prisoners rescued 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 forces 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 military will fight until all hostages are returned.

Netanyahu is facing increasing pressure to end the fighting in Gaza. Many Israelis are urging him to embrace a deal announced by US President Joe Biden last month, but far-right allies are threatening to topple his government if he does so.

Israel intensifies operations in central Gaza, where hostages were rescued. On Thursday, an Israeli airstrike hit a UN-run school site in Nuseirat, killing more than 33 people inside the school, including three women and nine children.

Israel said about 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 data on the deaths from the hospital’s morgue.

According to hospital records, one of the suspected militants was an 8-year-old boy.

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Shurafa reported from Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip.


Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Gaza at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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