Israel kills over 200 Palestinians to rescue 4 captives; U.S. allegedly involved in operation

At least 210 Palestinians were killed and hundreds of others were injured on Saturday in the central Gaza Strip, in what Israel is celebrating as a “heroic” military operation to rescue four Israeli captives that were being held in Gaza. 

Palestinian media reported intense bombardment in the early afternoon local time in various areas in the Nuseirat and Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip. Video footage from the main market in the Nuseirat refugee camp showed crowds of Palestinian civilians fleeing under the sound of heavy artillery fire. 

Translation: A horrific scene shows the first moments of the [Israeli] occupation committing the Nuseirat massacre in the middle of the Gaza Strip.

Al Jazeera reporter Anas al-Sharif reported that Israeli forces “infiltrated” the Nuseirat refugee camp in trucks disguised as humanitarian aid trucks. 

The Gaza government media office said in a statement that Israeli forces launched an “unprecedented brutal attack on the Nuseirat refugee camp” directly targeting civilians, and that ambulances and civil defense crews were unable to reach the area and evacuate the wounded due to the intensity of the bombing.

The media office added that according to its count, at least 210 Palestinians were killed and an estimated 400 others were injured during the Israeli operation. 

Video footage published on social media showed dozens of bodies of men, women and children lying in the streets in the Nuseirat area, as well as bloodied and injured civilians being rushed to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah.

Al Jazeera quoted Dr Tanya Haj-Hassan with Doctors Without Borders as saying the  emergency department at Al-Aqsa Hospital “is a complete bloodbath … It looks like a slaughterhouse.”

“The images and videos that I’ve received show patients lying everywhere in pools of blood … their limbs have been blown off,” she told Al Jazeera, adding “That is what a massacre looks like.”

As the death toll from the central Gaza Strip continued to rise, Israeli reports emerged that four Israeli captives were rescued in the operation and transferred back to Israel.  The four captives were identified as Noa Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 21, Andrey Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 40. They were all reportedly taken on October 7th from the Nova Music festival in southern Israel close to the Gaza border.

According to Israeli media, the four captives were found in good health, and were transferred to a hospital in Israel where they were reunited with their families. One member of the Israeli special forces was killed during the attack. 

Israeli newspaper Haaretz cited Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari as saying the captives were “rescued under fire, and that during the operation the IDF attacked from the air, sea, and land in the Nuseirat and Deir al-Balah areas in the center of the Gaza Strip.”

Haaretz added that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant approved the operation on Thursday evening. Netanyahu hailed the operation as “successful,” while Gallant reportedly described it as “one of the heroic operations he had seen in all his years in the defense establishment, according to Israeli media.

The families of Israeli captives held a press conference on Saturday afternoon in reaction to the news. Relatives of the four captives rescued on Saturday praised both the Israeli military and the government. Some relatives of the remaining captives still being held in Gaza demanded an end to the war and a prisoner exchange in order to secure the release of those still being held in Gaza. 

On Saturday evening local time, spokesman for the Qassam Brigades Abu Obeida said “the first to be harmed by [the Israeli army] are its prisoners”, saying that while some of the captives were freed in the operation, a number of other Israeli captives were reportedly killed. The Israeli government and military have not commented on the reports that Israeli captives were killed in the operation. 

It is reported that there are 120 captives still held in the Gaza Strip, including 43 who have been killed since October, many reportedly by Israel’s own forces. 

On its official Telegram channel, Hamas said the release of the four captives “will not change the Israeli army’s strategic failure in the Gaza Strip” and that “the resistance is still holding a larger number of captives and can increase it.”

Reports of US involvement in Nuseirat massacre

As news flooded on the scale of the massacre in central Gaza, and of celebrations in Israel at the release of the four captives, reports emerged of alleged U.S. involvement in the operation. 

Axios, citing a US administration official, reported that “the U.S. hostage cell in Israel supported the effort to rescue the four hostages.”

Of the operation, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said: “The United States is supporting all efforts to secure the release of hostages still held by Hamas, including American citizens. This includes through ongoing negotiations or other means.”

Some reports claimed that American forces were involved in the operation on the ground, and that the humanitarian aid trucks that were reportedly used to disguise the entry of special forces into Nuseirat departed from the U.S. built humanitarian pier off the Gaza coast. Mondoweiss has not been able to independently verify some of these reports. 

Videos circulating on social media showed the helicopters that were used in the operation to evacuate the Israeli captives taking off from the vicinity of the U.S. pier that was built off the coast of Gaza in order to deliver “much-needed humanitarian aid” to Gaza. The $230m pier, which was completed last month, has drawn significant criticism from rights groups and activists who say the pier is an ineffective way to deliver aid. 

Reported U.S. involvement in the attacks on central Gaza on Saturday, and the alleged use of the pier in the operation, has sparked intense criticism and outrage online. 

In response to the reports, Hamas said it proves “once more” that Washington is “complicit and completely involved in the war crimes being perpetrated” in Gaza. 

U.S. President Joe Biden has not commented on U.S. involvement in the operation, but in response said “We won’t stop working until all the hostages come home and a ceasefire is reached. It is essential that it happens.”


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