Israeli special forces raided a building in the southern Gazan city of Rafah early today to free two hostages held by Hamas, as Israel launched a “wave of attacks” to create cover for the operation, the military said. Via the New York Times:
The nighttime operation — only the second time Israeli forces said they had rescued captives in Gaza since the war began in October — prompted elation in Israel but fueled fear and panic among more than a million Palestinians who have crowded into Gaza’s southernmost city, seeking refuge from Israeli military actions farther north.
The rescue came as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signals that Israeli ground forces will soon enter Rafah with the goal of eliminating Hamas battalions there. The prospect of ground battles inside the city, which is bracketed by a closed Egyptian border, has created worldwide alarm over the risks to civilians who say they have nowhere else to flee.
At 1:49 a.m. on Monday, Israeli special forces soldiers broke into a building where the two hostages were being held, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the military’s chief spokesman, said at a news conference. About a minute later, Israeli forces fired on nearby buildings, creating cover for the soldiers to safely bring the hostages out and take them back to Israel, he said. At the same time, he said that Israeli warplanes had fired on Hamas targets in the area.
The ministry of health in Gaza said that at least 67 people had been killed overnight in Israeli strikes in Rafah. News outlets reported deadly attacks on two mosques in Rafah and said that people were being taken to Kuwait Hospital in the city.