Israeli Military Operation Rescues 4 Hostages From Gaza, Including Noa Argamani

Ron Kampeas

(JTA) — Israeli forces rescued four hostages held since Oct. 7 in the central Gaza Strip, including Noa Argamani, the festival-goer who was filmed screaming as she was carried away by terrorists on a motorcycle.

In addition to Argamani, 26, the army said in a statement that Almog Meir Jan, 22; Andrey Kozlov, 27; and Shlomi Ziv, 41, were rescued Saturday in the raid. All four were attending the Nova music festival on Oct. 7, when Hamas terrorists killed approximately 1,200 people and abducted some 250, launching the war.

The army said special forces carried out the operation in Nuseirat in the center of the coastal territory. Arnon Zamora, a commander of the operation, was killed in the battle.

Hamas initially said “dozens” of Palestinians were killed in the operation. Media later quoted the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry as saying the number was more than 200. It did not report what proportion were civilians and what proportion were combatants.

A Hamas spokesman later said that Israeli captives were among the dead, but did not offer any evidence. The spokesman, posting on Telegram, said the attack would “pose a great danger” to the remaining captives. About 120 people are thought to remain captive, including dozens who have been killed.

Argamani in particular became a symbol of Oct. 7, and especially of the massacre at the Nova festival where terrorists killed 364 people, after footage of her abduction emerged that day. The fate of her boyfriend, Avinatan Or, also seen in the video being led away by terrorists, is not known.

Photos of Argamani enjoying herself before her abduction featured prominently on posters, fliers and social media advocating for the release of the hostages, and Hamas released at least two videos of her in captivity since Oct. 7.

Her plight gained additional note as her mother Liora, who has terminal brain cancer, pled for her release. Argamani was reportedly able to see her mother on Saturday; the father of another rescued hostage, Jan, was found dead on Saturday, the victim, his sister said, of a broken heart.

Israeli forces have now rescued a total of seven hostages from Gaza in three separate operations. More than 100 others were freed as part of a ceasefire deal in November. Israeli forces have mistakenly killed three hostages, and others are known to have been killed since Oct. 7. Israel has recovered a number of bodies of hostages who have died.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with the released hostages. Images of the hostages reuniting with family proliferated on Israeli media.

In a statement, Netanyahu congratulated the commanders of the operation. “The entire nation salutes you and the courageous fighters who today risked their lives in order to save lives,” he said. “Yet again you have proven that Israel does not surrender to terrorism and acts with boundless valor and resourcefulness to return home our hostages.”

The Biden administration also praised the action. “We commend the work of the Israeli security services that conducted this daring operation,” Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, said in a statement.

The operation came as Hamas is weighing a ceasefire proposal from Israel and the United States that would see more hostages go free. Netanyahu has faced pressure from protesters to reach a deal, though his allies on the far right oppose the one that is on the table.

The release also came just hours before former Defense Minister Benny Gantz, a member of the war cabinet and rival to Netanyahu, was set to address the nation in what Israeli media said was likely to be his announcement that he was pulling out of the government, in part because Netanyahu has failed to end the war and release the hostages.

Gantz instead canceled the planned press conference.

Photo Caption: Noa Argamani embraces her father, Yaakov, after her rescue from captivity, June 8 2024. (Israeli Army Spokesman)

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