Israeli military rescues two hostages in Rafah amid heavy strikes in Gaza
Israeli special forces rescued two Israeli hostages in Rafah amid air strikes that killed 37 people and wounded dozens.
Israel launched a special forces operation that freed two Israeli hostages in Rafah amid air strikes early on Monday, which killed 37 people and wounded dozens in the southern Gaza city, said local health officials.
Israeli military spokesman Lt Co. Richard Hecht said, "It was a very complex operation. We’ve been working a long time on this operation. We were waiting for the right conditions."
The hostages were being held on the second floor of a building that was breached with an explosive charge during the raid, which saw heavy exchanges of gunfire with surrounding buildings, Hecht said, adding that an air strike was carried out to allow the forces to be extracted.
The air strikes caused widespread panic in Rafah as many people were asleep when the strikes started, said residents contacted by Reuters using a chat app. Some feared Israel had begun its ground offensive into Rafah.
Israeli planes, tanks, and ships took part in the strikes, with two mosques and several houses hit, according to residents.
On Monday, the Israeli military it had conducted a “series of strikes" on southern Gaza that have now “concluded", without providing further details. Before previous assaults on Gaza cities, Israel's military has ordered civilians to leave without preparing any specific evacuation plan.
US President Joe Biden told PM Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday that Israel should not launch a military operation in Rafah without a credible plan to ensure the safety of the around one million people sheltering there, the White House said.
Netanyahu's office has said that it had ordered the military to develop a plan to evacuate Rafah and destroy four Hamas battalions it says are deployed there, Reuters reported.
Hamas militants killed 1,200 people in southern Israel and abducted at least 250 in their October 7 incursion, according to Israeli tallies. Israel has responded with a military assault on the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 28,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
Egypt warned on Sunday of "dire consequences" of a potential Israeli military assault on Rafah, which lies near its border.
"Egypt called for the necessity of uniting all international and regional efforts to prevent the targeting of the Palestinian city of Rafah," its foreign ministry added in a statement.
(With Reuters inputs)
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