Rafah IDF raid rescues hostages from Hamas-guarded apartment

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The government has made freeing the hostages a top aim of its war, along with destroying Hamas’ military and governing capabilities. But as the fighting drags on, rifts have emerged in Israel over how to retrieve them.

Israel says about 100 hostages remain in Hamas captivity after dozens were freed during a ceasefire in November. Hamas also holds the remains of roughly 30 others who were either killed on October 7 or died in captivity.

Hostage Fernando Simon Marman hugs a relative after being rescued.Credit: IDF

Netanyahu says persistent military pressure will bring about the captives’ freedom even as families of the hostages and many of their supporters have called on the government to make another deal with Hamas.

Israel’s offensive has killed more than 28,000 Palestinians in the territory, displaced more than 80 per cent of the population and set off a massive humanitarian crisis.

More than 12,300 Palestinian children and young teens have been killed in the conflict, Gaza’s Health Ministry said. About 8400 women were also among those killed. That means children and young teens make up about 43 per cent of the dead, and women and minors together make up three quarters.

The ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians, provided the breakdown at the request of the AP. Israel claims to have killed about 10,000 Hamas fighters but has not provided evidence.

People inspect the damage to their homes following Israeli airstrikes on Rafah, Gaza.

People inspect the damage to their homes following Israeli airstrikes on Rafah, Gaza.Credit: Getty Images

In Hamas’ cross-border raid on October 7, an estimated 1200 people, mostly civilians, were killed, and militants took 250 people captive, according to Israeli authorities.

Israel has described Rafah as the last remaining Hamas stronghold in the territory and signalled that its ground offensive may soon target the town on the southern edge of the Gaza Strip.

The airstrikes hit jam-packed Rafah in the middle of the night, and dozens of explosions could be heard about 2am on Monday (11am Monday AEDT). Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the Health Ministry, said at least 67 people, including women and children, were killed in the strikes.

Al-Qidra said rescuers were still searching the rubble. An AP journalist counted at least 50 bodies at the Abu Youssef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah.

Mohamed Zoghroub, a Palestinian living in Rafah, said he saw a black Jeep speeding through the town followed by clashes and heavy airstrikes.

“We found ourselves running with our children, from the airstrikes, in every direction,” he said, speaking from an area flattened by the bombardment.

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Footage circulating on social media from Rafah’s Kuwaiti hospital showed dead or wounded children. The footage could not immediately be verified but was consistent with AP reporting.

A young man could be seen carrying the body of an infant who he said was killed in the attacks. He said the girl, the daughter of his neighbour, was born and killed during the war.

“Let Netanyahu come and see: is this one of your designated targets?” he said.



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