Palestinian civilians paid by Hamas to hold Israeli hostages in their homes: IDF

The Israeli hostages who were rescued in a daring operation over the weekend were being held in the homes of Palestinian civilians who Hamas was paying to keep the hostages, in a populated area. IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said that the four hostages had been held in homes of families who were paid by Hamas to keep them there and that Hamas had been guarding those civilian homes. 

Noa Argamani (25), Almog Meir (21), Andrey Kozlov (27), and Shlomi Ziv (40), all of whom were kidnapped by Hamas to the Gaza Strip from the Supernova festival on October 7 were rescued Saturday from two separate but nearby locations in Nuseirat in central Gaza.

The two homes in which the hostages were held were only 200 meters apart, with Argamani held in one apartment while the three men were held in the other. 

Hagari told reporters that Hamas had paid the families in those homes to keep the hostages and that there were Palestinian civilians hurt in the rescue mission, though he was not sure how many since dozens of Hamas militants were also killed.

According to the IDF, the planning for the joint high-risk operation by the IDF, Shin Bet, Yamam, and police began months ago, but was delayed multiple times based on new intelligence, risk assessment, and other factors.

Axios reporter Barak Ravid also revealed that an American cell assisted in the operation. Ravid posted on X, "A U.S. official told me that the U.S. hostages cell in Israel supported the effort to rescue the four hostages." 

At approximately 11:00 am on Saturday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi and Shin Bet Director Ronen Bar gave the go-ahead for the operation, believing it would have a greater chance of success in the daylight hours than would a nighttime operation.

After the hostages were freed, they were brought to a military vehicle which got stuck, exposing soldiers and the hostages to terrorist attacks. 

Dozens of terrorists armed with rocket-propelled grenades began firing at the rescue force and were neutralized by the IDF Division 98. According to the IDF, approximately 90 Palestinians were killed during the operation, however, because the firefight occurred in a mixed terrorist-civilian area, the IDF still does not yet know the ratio of how many Palestinian terrorists to civilians were killed.

Reinforcements and helicopters were successful in evacuating the IDF forces and the hostages.

Chief Inspector Arnon Zamora, 36, was killed in the rescue and the operation was renamed in his honor.

It was revealed after the operation that many of the division’s operations last week in central Gaza and Nuseirat were part of a decoy operation to make the Palestinian terrorists believe that though the IDF was nearby, the military did not know the hostages were there. 

Hagari said, "This operation was a success in rescuing and returning four hostages. We will continue to do everything to return the 120 hostages still held in Gaza."

He added, directly addressing the hostages, "We are confident that we will reach you, and this operation will not end until you are returned home. We will not give up on a single hostage. I want to say that it is a great pride seeing the security forces working together, shoulder to shoulder, in a vital operation: returning the hostages home."

He reminded the international media, "Hamas intentionally hides the hostages in civilian neighborhoods."

Image: Title: hostages