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Israeli forces rescue two hostages in Rafah, strike overcrowded town

TEL AVIV — The Israeli military praised the overnight rescue of two hostages in Rafah, while local authorities said the raid killed dozens of people in the crowded southern Gaza Strip town, home to more than of a million displaced people.

At least 67 people were killed in the Israeli strikes, Palestinian Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Ashraf Al-Qudra said. An NBC News team that has been working on the ground in Gaza since the start of the war described the bombing in the Shaboura camp area of ​​Rafah as an attack of striking violence and death.

The strikes rained down on Rafah as Israeli forces carried out a dramatic rescue of Fernando Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, amid growing international concerns over a planned Israeli ground assault on Rafah.

Israeli forces recovered the two Israeli men captured in the October 7 Hamas attack in a “complex” nighttime operation carried out “under fire in the heart of Rafah,” Hamas spokesman said. Israeli army, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari.

Freed hostages Fernando Simon Marman, right, and Luis Har, second from left, embrace their loved ones after being rescued from captivity in the Gaza Strip, at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel, Monday.Israeli army via AP

The operation included a “wave of strikes” that Hagari said helped “enable the disengagement of the force” and hit Hamas members in the area.

The strikes sparked widespread panic and chaos, according to the NBC News team on the ground, with first responders and crowds of people rushing the dead and wounded to Kuwait’s hospital.

In video captured by the NBC News team, mourners cradle their loved ones wrapped in bloody shrouds and blankets, with one man crying over another while stroking his cheek. A child lies motionless and partially wrapped in a white shroud, her head bloody from a deep wound. A medical professional checks another girl’s heartbeat before shaking her head as the motionless child is carried away.

An injured boy is being treated at Kuwait Hospital in Rafah on Monday. NBC News

The Israeli army confirmed overnight that its forces had carried out strikes in the Shaboura region.

Asked to comment on the number of people killed in the raid, according to Gaza health authorities, the Israeli military said Monday morning that it could not confirm the statistics provided by Palestinian health authorities because it did not find them “reliable.” “.

Hagari said Israeli forces had been planning the nighttime operation “for some time” and that it was carried out based on highly sensitive intelligence.

The IDF spokesperson described how special forces entered a building “in the heart of Rafah” before locating Har and Marman on the second floor, where they were being held by armed Hamas militants.

A battle ensued, he said, with “heavy exchanges of fire in several locations simultaneously.” Around the same time, he explained, aerial fire was deployed to the area by the Israeli Air Force and Southern Command.

In a separate statement, the Israeli army, the Israeli security agency and the Israeli police said that Har and Marman were both in good condition and had been transferred for examination to the Sheba Tel-HaShomer medical center in Ramat Gan , near Tel Aviv.

Hospital officials confirmed to NBC News that the two men were receiving treatment there, while a photo released by Israeli officials showed them being reunited with their loved ones at the medical facility.

“Fernando and Luis — Welcome home,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement Monday morning.

Hamas, for its part, condemned Israeli operations in Rafah.

The Israeli offensive in Gaza has so far left more than 28,000 dead and more than 67,700 injured, with thousands more missing and presumed dead, according to Palestinian health authorities.

And in recent days, concerns have grown over Israel’s plans to launch a ground attack on Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s approximately 2.3 million residents have sought refuge after the Israeli army declared the border town with Egypt a security zone.

As thousands of people are crammed into tents and makeshift shelters in the city, residents and aid groups have warned that a ground attack on Rafah could spell disaster.

Palestinians have expressed growing concern and despair over Israeli plans.

“We are so scared. We don’t know where to go,” said one young woman. “There are a lot of people here. I can’t even count them.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called reports of Israel’s plans to evacuate Palestinians from the city “extremely worrying.”

“Implementing this plan could have devastating consequences for the 1.4 million people who now have nowhere to go,” he said in a statement. job on X Sunday as he called for a ceasefire.

President Joe Biden told Netanyahu on Sunday that Israel should not launch a military operation in Rafah without a “credible and enforceable” plan to ensure the safety of those sheltering there, the White House said in a statement.

Biden has expressed frustration in recent private conversations over his inability to persuade Israel to change its military tactics in Gaza, and he singled out Netanyahu as the main obstacle, according to five people directly familiar with his comments.

Netanyahu told ABC News in an interview broadcast Sunday that an attack on Rafah was the key to defeating Hamas. But even though he assured that civilians could leave the area safely, it is unclear where the hundreds of thousands of people taking refuge in Rafah would go.

Egypt has rejected any plans for a military operation in Rafah, warning of the “serious consequences” of a ground attack.

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