Updated Jun 8, 2024 - World

Israel rescues four hostages held by Hamas in Gaza

People walk arm in arm

Relatives of rescued hostages arrive at Tel Hashomer (Sheba) hospital. Photo: Ilia Yefimovich via Getty Images

Four Israeli hostages who were held by Hamas were rescued on Saturday morning in a military operation of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Shin Bet and the Israeli police counter terrorism unit, the IDF said in a statement.

Why it matters: The military operation took place as the Biden administration pushes for a deal that will secure the release of hostages and lead to a ceasefire in Gaza.

The four hostages who were rescued are Noa Argamani, Almog Meir, Andrei Kozlov and Shlomi Ziv.

  • All four were kidnapped by Hamas from the Nova music festival on Oct. 7.
  • The IDF said they were rescued from two different locations at the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza strip.
  • They were found in sound medical condition, the IDF said.
  • A police officer from the special counterterrorism unit was wounded in the operation and died.
  • There are 120 hostages still being held in Gaza, at least 42 of them are confirmed dead.
Hostage reunited
A hostage reunited with loved ones. Credit: IDF

What they're saying: President Biden welcomed the rescue of the four hostages in a joint press statement with French President Macron in Paris.

  • "We will not stop working until all hostages come home and a ceasefire is reached. It is essential that it happens," Biden said.

Driving the news: IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told reporters the hostages were held in civilian homes of families affiliated with Hamas and that Hamas militants were guarding the houses.

  • The two houses were 200 meters from each other. Argamani was held in one apartment and the three male hostages in another apartment.
  • Hagari said Hamas paid the families to hold the hostages. He confirmed Palestinian civilians were hurt in the operation but didn't say how many. He said dozens of Hamas militants were killed in the operation.

The Ministry of Health in Hamas-run Gaza said in a statement that 274 Palestinians were killed during the operation.

  • Israeli officials said the operation was supposed to happen a few weeks ago but was canceled for operational reasons.
  • Earlier this week, it was approved again by Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant and on Thursday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
  • The officials said Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz was briefed on the operation on Thursday by the head of Shin Bet.

Gantz told his team not to cancel the speech he was planning to give on Saturday night in order not to alert Hamas that something was happening.

  • He later announced he was canceling the speech, in which he was expected to announce the departure of his party from the coalition.
  • A Gantz aide said the speech was canceled only after the operation was over.

Zoom in: Hagari said the operation -- called "Seeds of Summer" -- took place in daylight and that Israeli forces exchanged fire with the Hamas militants who were holding the hostages.

  • Hagari added the hostages were taken by soldiers from two locations to two helicopters under fire and were brought back to Israeli territory. He said the operation was planned for weeks and hundreds of soldiers took part in it.
  • Israel's message to Hamas is that it will work to release its hostages in any way possible, Hagari said.
  • A U.S. official told Axios the U.S. hostage cell in Israel supported the effort to rescue the four hostages.

The latest: National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement on the rescue operation that "Hamas filmed the horrific abduction of Ms. Argamani for the world to see."

  • "The United States is supporting all efforts to secure the release of hostages still held by Hamas, including American citizens," Sullivan said. "This includes through ongoing negotiations or other means."
  • "The hostage release and ceasefire deal that is now on the table would secure the release of all the remaining hostages together with security assurances for Israel and relief for the innocent civilians in Gaza," Sullivan added.
  • "This deal has the full backing of the United States and has been endorsed by countries from around the world, including the G7, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, UAE, and Qatar, as well as the sixteen countries with their citizens still being held by Hamas. They all must be released — now."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to revise the death toll related to the rescue mission with numbers released from the Ministry of Health.

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