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Israel rescues 4 hostages in attacks that kill over 270 Palestinians

The rescued hostages were identified as Noa Argamani, 25 (upper left); Almog Meir Jan, 21 (upper right); Shlomi Ziv, 40 (bottom left); and Andrey Kozlov, 27 (bottom right.)
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AP
The rescued hostages were identified as Noa Argamani, 25 (upper left); Almog Meir Jan, 21 (upper right); Shlomi Ziv, 40 (bottom left); and Andrey Kozlov, 27 (bottom right.)

Updated June 09, 2024 at 09:32 AM ET

TEL AVIV, Israel and NUSEIRAT, Gaza Strip — Israel announced the rescue of four Israeli hostages on Saturday, while Gaza's Health Ministry said at least 274 Palestinians were killed.

Cheers filled Tel Aviv on after Israel announced the rescue of the hostages, all of whom were kidnapped at a music festival during the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas-led militants.

Shlomi Ziv (L), 40, Andrey Kozlov (C), 27, and Almog Meir, 21, arrive by a helicopter at the Sheba Medical center in Ramat Gan, Israel, on Saturday. Israel's military said on Saturday that it had rescued four Israeli hostages in a "complex special daytime operation" in Nuseirat, a refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip.
Maya Levin / for NPR
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for NPR
Shlomi Ziv (L), 41, Andrey Kozlov (C), 27, and Almog Meir Jan, 22, arrive by a helicopter at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel, on Saturday. Israel's military said on Saturday that it had rescued four Israeli hostages in a "complex special daytime operation" in Nuseirat, a refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip.

The hostages were identified as Noa Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 22, Andrey Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 41.

They were rescued from two separate locations in Nuseirat in central Gaza — in what is the largest recovery of living hostages since the war erupted eight months ago, bringing the total number of rescued hostages to seven.

The operation entailed Israeli airstrikes, which left around 700 Palestinians wounded in addition to the nearly 300 killed, according to Gaza's Health Ministry.

People wave Israeli flags as they celebrate the rescue and arrival of four Israeli hostages at the Sheba Medical center in Ramat Gan, Israel, on Saturday.
Maya Levin / for NPR
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for NPR
People wave Israeli flags as they celebrate the rescue and arrival of four Israeli hostages at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel, on Saturday.
People gather with Israeli national flags outside Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Centre in Ramat Gan on Saturday where Israeli hostages were transferred after being rescued from captivity in the Gaza Strip since the Oct. 7 attacks.
Jack Guez / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
People gather with Israeli national flags outside Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan on Saturday.

It comes amid negotiations involving Israel and Hamas to bring an end to the war in Gaza.

Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defense minister, said Saturday he will do everything possible to bring all the hostages home.

"This morning not only did we have a successful operation but also an opportunity to fulfill the goals of this war," he said in Hebrew during on-camera remarks.

An Army helicopter pilot waves at the crowd as people celebrate the rescue and arrival of four Israeli hostages at the Sheba Medical center in Ramat Gan on Saturday.
Maya Levin / for NPR
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for NPR
An Army helicopter pilot waves at the crowd as people celebrate the rescue and arrival of four Israeli hostages at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan on Saturday.
People celebrate the rescue and arrival of four Israeli hostages at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan on Saturday.
Maya Levin / for NPR
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for NPR
People celebrate the rescue and arrival of four Israeli hostages at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan on Saturday.

Hamas-led militants kidnapped some 250 people on Oct. 7. With the rescue of these four hostages, 120 remain in captivity — about a third of whom are believed dead.

The Hostages Families Forum, a group representing families of the hostages, issued a statement calling the operation “heroic” and a “miraculous triumph” — while also calling on the Israeli government to bring back the remaining hostages held by Hamas.

"The Israeli government must remember its commitment to bring back all 120 hostages still held by Hamas — the living for rehabilitation, the murdered for burial," the group said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Israel's military confirmed the deaths of four hostages: Amiram Cooper, Haim Perry, Yoram Metzger and Nadav Popplewell. According to the military, their bodies are still being held in Gaza.

Hostages reunite with families, appear in "good medical condition," Israeli officials say

The four hostages were taken on Oct. 7 from the Nova Music and Dance Festival in southern Israel, where nearly 400 people who attended the event were killed or kidnapped by Hamas militants.

In a joint statement, the Israel Defense Forces, police and Shin Bet domestic security agency said the rescued hostages are "in good medical condition" and have been transferred to a hospital in Israel "for further medical examinations.”

Noa Argamani was among the most well-known hostages after her abduction was filmed and circulated on social media. The video, where she was seen crying for help and taken away on a motorcycle, became emblematic of the horrors of the Oct. 7 attack.

Yakov Argamani, the father of Noa Argamani, speaks at a press conference at the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Center in Ramat Gan on Saturday, following her rescue from Gaza.
Maya Levin / for NPR
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for NPR
Yakov Argamani, the father of Noa Argamani, speaks at a press conference at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan on Saturday, following her rescue from Gaza.

In a phone call with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Argamani said in Hebrew, “I’m so happy to be here. Thank you for everything. Thank you for this moment.”

Argamani’s father, Yaakov, said Noa was “fine” and “looks beautiful,” adding that Saturday was his birthday and his daughter’s return was the ultimate gift.

“I want to thank each and every one of you, the President, the Prime Minister, everyone, each and every person. Let us not forget that there are still 120 hostages; we must release them,” he said, according to a press release from the Hostages Families Forum Headquarters.

Palestinians walk among the rubble after four hostages were rescued from Gaza in an Israeli rescue operation on June 8, 2024.
Anas Baba / NPR
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NPR
Palestinians walk among the rubble after four hostages were rescued from Gaza in an Israeli rescue operation on Saturday.

The Israeli operation leaves a deadly toll in a refugee camp

On Saturday morning, residents in Nuseirat were bombarded by explosions and gunfire erupting from helicopters overhead.

“We are all going to die!” someone shouted.

“May God help us,” another person cried. “May God punish Hamas who is the reason for all this!”

The streets were later covered in blood. The nearby Al-Aqsa hospital — which has been taking in mass casualties daily for the past week as the fighting rages in the area — was overwhelmed yet again with injured people lining the hallways.

The intense bombardment took place near a United Nations school that had been hit by an Israeli strike on Thursday. At least 32 people, including at least seven children, were killed in that strike, according to Dr. Khalil Doqran, spokesman for the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in central Gaza.

On Saturday, the Israeli military said it was responding to "threats" to its forces in the area. One member of an Israeli counterterrorism unit had died from his injuries during the rescue operation.

The U.S. says negotiations are still underway

The deadly rescue operation comes amid negotiations to end the war in Gaza. Neither Israel and nor Hamas have agreed on the cease-fire proposal put forth by by President Biden last week.

On Saturday, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan commended Israel for rescuing hostages, but also stressed that all of the remaining hostages could be freed if a deal is reached.

"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 said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Egypt's foreign affairs ministry condemned the Israeli attack on the Nuseirat camp, saying that it was a flagrant violation of international law and urged Israel to stop its military campaign in Gaza.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Hannah Bloch is lead digital editor on NPR's international desk, overseeing the work of NPR correspondents and freelance journalists around the world.
Anas Baba
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.