Tuesday, June 18, 2024

How Israel’s daring hostage rescue mission unfolded: ‘A surgical operation’


New details about Israel’s bold rescue of four hostages are coming to light with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) describing the daytime operation as a “high-risk, complex mission” that was “surgical” in its precision. 

The mission was planned for weeks using “precise intelligence” and took place at around 11 a.m. local time in the heart of Nuseirat in central Gaza, according to Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari of the IDF.

Officers of the National Police special anti-terror unit of Yamam along with Shin Bet agents simultaneously raided two Hamas buildings to pluck the three male hostages and one female hostage to safety. The soldiers had been undergoing intense training for weeks in preparation for the rescue mission, Hagari said. 

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4 Israeli hostages rescued

Noa Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 22, Shlomi Ziv, 41, and Andrey Kozlov, 27, were rescued in two separate locations in a complex daytime operation in the heart of Nuseirat in central Gaza. (IDF)

Noa Argamani, 26, was rescued at one site, while Almog Meir Jan, 22, Shlomi Ziv, 41, and Andrey Kozlov, 27, were taken from the second location. Argamani has been one of the most widely recognized hostages since video of her abduction was among the first to surface. She can be seen in the video between two men on a motorcycle with one arm outstretched and the other held down as she screams “Don’t kill me!”

Dramatic aerial footage from this morning’s rescue shows Meir Jan, Kozlov and Ziv running with Israeli forces to a waiting helicopter before the chopper takes off to bring them to safety. 

During the operation, Chief Inspector Arnon Zmora, 36, an officer in the special anti-terror unit of Yamam, was critically injured and later died from his injuries. He leaves behind a wife and two children.

Under 100 Palestinians were killed in the raid, Hagari said.

Hagari said Hamas has been holding hostages inside civilian buildings, and Israeli intelligence was able to pinpoint two of these buildings in Nuseirat where families were staying with armed guards inside.

Israel mission collage

Noa Argaman hugging her father, left; Andrey Kozlov, top right, leaving a helicopter; and military leaders planning the operation, bottom right.  (IDF)

The buildings were about 650 feet apart, and Israeli forces decided to move on both buildings at the same time because they feared Hamas might kill hostages in one of the buildings if they saw the other coming under attack.

“This is a huge risk because they might have thought that we were preparing for another raid,” Hagari said. “You have to understand that they’re moving the hostages from flat to flat.”

Hagari said the decision to carry out the mission during the day was also to bring about an element of surprise because Hamas would not have been expecting it. 

Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant and advisors

Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant approves the operation to rescue the hostages together with IDF Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, Head of the IDF’s Intelligence Directorate Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva and Maj. Gen. (Res.) Nitzan Alon. (Ariel Hermoni/IMoD)

“In the daytime, you take more risks to make sure the surprise element is kept, and we understood that inside the flats it would give us leverage,” Hagari said. “We surprised them completely, but it was still hard,” he said.

The command to go was given at 11 a.m. and, 25 minutes later, the raid started, he said.

Israeli forces exchanged gunfire with the guards in the building with the three male hostages. In the crossfire, Zmora was injured and then later died at a hospital, Hagari said.

“He is a warrior that gave his life for bringing home four hostages alive,” Hagari said of Zmora. 

As soldiers left the building, they were also met with gunfire and RPG fire, leading to their vehicle being stuck. Other forces came to their rescue and helped them flee. 

The hostages were then taken to two helicopters with the second of those helicopters taking the three hostages and Zmora.

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Almog Jan Meir hostage

Almog Jan Meir reunited with his family (IDF)

Hagari said the command room where the mission was being directed was tense while it took “hundreds of warriors” in the surrounding area to carry out the operation. 

“This is a surgical operation, like a brain operation; it has to be so accurate. Imagine that on a civilian street with a lot of people around with trucks and cars,” Hagari said. 

Hagari said under 100 Palestinian casualties were reported, and he wasn’t sure how many of them were terrorists. 

“But they were using the civilians to embed them with the hostages. They were using the civilians to fire on the Israeli forces when they went out. And from the operation at this level, so many fires was a lot of force. We needed to fire from the air and from the street,” Hagari said. 

“And some of the casualties were terrorists in the [prepared] targets that we had, and the Air Force conducted the fire during the operation.”

To prepare for the mission, Hagari said Israeli forces had built models of the buildings to practice the raid and gathered intelligence in “multiple ways” to ensure the operation would be successful.

Chief Inspector Arnon Zmora

Chief Inspector Arnon Zmora was killed during the raid.  (IDF)

“We have tried in the past, but in the end did not execute because we understood we didn’t have the right conditions, the right leverage,” Hagari said. 

“In the past, we conducted in-field operations more than three or four times. Forces from special units were waiting to raid an apartment, but we did not execute that because we understood that we didn’t have this leverage. This type of operation has a lot of details, like in a puzzle.

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“We need to make sure — and we never have all the links — that we have enough links to ensure that.”

Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant described the mission as one of the “most heroic and extraordinary operations” he had witnessed over the course of his 47 years serving in Israel’s defense establishment.

“Our troops showed so much courage operating under heavy fire in the most complex [urban environment in Gaza],” Gallant said. 

“I do not remember having completed operations of this kind at this intensity and with this level of cooperation and success.”

Fox News’ Yonat Friling contributed to this report. 



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