Israel releases 4 hostages; the details of «Operation Arnon»

On Saturday morning, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the Shin Bet Security Agency and the Israel Police carried out one of the most important and successful high-risk operations of the war against Hamas, freeing four hostages alive. held by jihadists in the Gaza Strip. The operation took place in broad daylight and in an area where the Israeli Forces had not previously operated. The operation to save Noa Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 21, Andrey Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 41, had been planned weeks in advance, The Times of Israel reported. Initially called «Seeds of Summer», the name of the mission was changed to «Operation Arnon» in honor of the head of the Yamam unit Arnon Zamora, who was seriously wounded by Hamas fire while rescuing three hostages and who subsequently He died in hospital as a result of his injuries.

A lot of planning

During the planning period, information on the location of the hostages was collected and analyzed that Hamas continuously moved hostages within the Gaza Strip to avoid Israeli rescue operations. In the days leading up to the rescue, the Police's elite Yamam Counter-Terrorism Unit practiced various extraction models in Nuseirat, central Gaza, similar to the 1976 Entebbe raid, when Israeli commandos freed more than 100 hostages in Uganda . Also in the days preceding the mission, the Israeli Military Forces launched an operation east of Bureij and south-east of Deir al-Balah, apparently to distract Hamas and reduce defenses in Nuseirat. According to a diplomatic source who spoke to Time of Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant gave the green light to the operation on Thursday evening, after a meeting of the War Cabinet and Security Cabinet. been cancelled.

The attacks on Saturday

The raid was carried out on Saturday morning, after the Shin Bet recommended it was the ideal time to catch the Hamas terrorists guarding the four hostages by surprise. Previous rescue operations in Gaza had taken place at night. At 11am, Yamam and Shin Bet officers were ordered to raid two multi-storey buildings in Nuseirat, where Hamas was holding hostages. Nuseirat is one of the few areas in Gaza where ground troops have not yet entered during the IDF's ground offensive against Hamas. The buildings were about 200 meters away from each other and the decision to attack them simultaneously was made to prevent Hamas from killing the hostages once they spotted the rescue operation in the other building. Noa Argamani was held prisoner by Hamas guards in a house of a Palestinian family, while the other three hostages were held in another house, also under the control of the jihadists. According to the IDF, Hamas pays these families to keep the hostages in their homes and is further proof of the level of compromise of Palestinian civilians. Meir Jan said he, Kozlov and Ziv were detained together for eight months in four different houses, Channel 12 reported Saturday night. Argamani's rescue was described by military officials as quite easy, given the circumstances. However, in the house where Meir Jan, Kozlov and Ziv were detained, a violent firefight broke out. Michal Zamora, Commander of the rescue team in the second building, was seriously injured by Hamas fire and later died in hospital due to his serious injuries. Hamas guards were also killed in the clash.

Shortly thereafter, as the three hostages and Zamora were being evacuated from Nuseirat, their vehicle was hit by enemy fire and became stranded in Gaza. Other forces quickly moved in to rescue them, transporting them to a makeshift helipad in Gaza, from where they were airlifted to Tel Hashomer hospital in central Israel. Noa Argamani was also taken by helicopter to hospital, shortly before the other three were evacuated from Gaza. According to the IDF, the Rescue Forces faced intense shooting and RPG fire in Nuseirat, forcing ground troops and the Israeli Air Force to carry out significant attacks in the area. The attacks, aimed at positions from which Hamas operatives opened fire, were intended to protect the rescue forces and hostages. The IDF acknowledged killing Palestinian civilians during the fighting, but blamed Hamas for holding hostages and fighting in a densely populated environment: “We know of fewer than 100 Palestinian casualties. I don't know how many of them are terrorists,” IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told Reuters. Hamas men also fired anti-aircraft missiles at Israeli helicopters during the operation, but failed to hit them. In addition to Zamora, several other troops were slightly injured by shrapnel during the operation.

Third rescue in eight months

Military officials said the mission was “on a razor's edge” between success and failure. IDF Chief of Staff General Herzi Halevi and Shin Bet Chief Ronen Bar jointly commanded the operation. Netanyahu and Gallant also observed the mission from the war room. Halevi and Yamam's commander decided to change the name of the mission to Operation Arnon, in honor of the slain officer. This was only the third successful operation in the 246 days following the Hamas attack, in which hostages were taken, after female soldier Ori Megidish was freed at the end of October and Fernando Marman, 61, and Louis Har , 70, were rescued in Rafah, southern Gaza, in February. At least one more hostage rescue was attempted in December, but failed, with the hostage killed and his body left in Hamas hands. All the hostages rescued by the IDF in Gaza, including the four on Saturday, were freed from buildings and not from Hamas' vast network of tunnels. Many other rescue operations were planned, in some cases extensively, but were ultimately considered too life-threatening to the hostages or technically impossible to carry out. Argamani, Meir Jan, Kozlov and Ziv, Hamas prisoners for eight months, were all in good condition, according to initial medical assessments. The four were abducted at the Supernova music festival near the community of Re'im on the morning of October 7, when around 3,000 Hamas-led terrorists killed 1,200 people and took 251 hostages in southern Israel. Israel's efforts to free its captives highlight the weakness of the West as it calls for an end to the war. If the demands of some Western politicians had been accepted, some of the abductees would never have returned home. It was only the use of force, only this, that brought them home because Hamas will never free them and proof of this is the fact that the jihadist group has been refusing any agreement for months. The West must avoid recognizing a Palestinian state at this time because this will only delay the return home of the abductees and the elimination of Hamas.