210 killed in Israeli Al-Nuseirat camp massacre, say Gaza authorities

210 killed in Israeli Al-Nuseirat camp massacre, say Gaza authorities
Jordan and Egypt condemned the Israeli assault on the Al-Nuseirat refugee camp, which Gaza authorities said killed more than 200 Palestinians.
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An Israeli attack on Al-Nuseirat refugee camp has killed scores of Palestinians, according to Gaza authorities [Ashraf Amra/Anadolu/Getty]

Israeli attacks on a central Gaza refugee camp killed more than 200 Palestinians dead and left hundreds wounded, the strip's government media office reported on Saturday, while Israel said its forces rescued four captives alive.

The media office said "the number of victims from the 'Israeli' occupation's massacre in the Al-Nuseirat camp has risen to 210 martyrs and more than 400 wounded".

Jordan's foreign ministry said it "condemned the brutal Israeli assault" on the camp, calling it a "practice that reflects the systematic targeting of Palestinian civilians, the Israeli persistence in violating international law and international humanitarian law, and the continuation of committing war crimes".

Egypt "condemns in the strongest terms the Israeli attacks on the Al-Nuseirat camp", a foreign ministry statement said.

The Israeli military said the four captives rescued were in "good medical condition". They had been seized from the Nova music festival during a Hamas-led 7 October attack.

Noa Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 22, Andrey Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 41, had been rescued from two separate buildings "in the heart" of Al-Nuseirat camp in a "complex daytime operation", the military said.

They were among 251 captives seized by the militants in their October attack on southern Israel. There are now 116 hostages remaining in Gaza, including 41 the army says are dead.

Footage posted on social media showed Argamani emotionally reuniting with her father after her rescue, as well as beachgoers erupting into cheers in Tel Aviv when a lifeguard announced the four had been freed.

Campaign group the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, which has pressed Israel's government to reach a deal that would free the captives, hailed the rescue as a "miraculous triumph".

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Israeli police said an officer was mortally wounded during the rescue operation.

It was carried out despite growing international pressure on Israel after a deadly strike on a UN-run school in Al-Nuseirat where displaced Gazans were sheltering.

"The message this morning to Hamas is clear: we are determined to bring back home all the hostages," military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said.

Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh vowed to keep fighting.

"Our people will not surrender, and the resistance will continue to defend our rights in the face of this criminal enemy," Haniyeh said in a statement.

Ceasefire 'essential'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has faced regular street protests demanding a deal to bring the captives home.

Pressure increased after troops retrieved the bodies of seven hostages from the Gaza Strip last month.

On Saturday, Netanyahu said the security forces "have proven that Israel does not surrender to terrorism". He pledged to return the rest of the captives.

His office also released a video of him speaking with Argamani on a mobile telephone.

She said she was "very excited" to return home, adding: "I haven't spoken Hebrew in such a long time."

US President Joe Biden welcomed the rescue operation, saying: "We won't stop working until all the hostages are home and a ceasefire is reached. That's essential to happen."

He was speaking in Paris alongside French President Emmanuel Macron, who also congratulated the families for the release of the hostages.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called the rescue "an important sign of hope".

Near Al-Nuseirat on Saturday, an AFP photographer saw scores of Palestinians fleeing the Bureij camp on foot, fearing further Israeli strikes.

The operation came days after the Israeli strike on the Al-Nuseirat school run by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, which two Gaza officials told Reuters had killed 40 people.

The two officials added that 14 children and nine women were killed in the strike.

The military claimed it killed 17 "terrorists".

UNRWA condemned Israel for striking a facility it said had been housing 6,000 displaced people.

'Defenceless'

Israel's war has brought widespread devastation to Gaza, with one in 20 people dead or wounded, according to the Palestinian territory's health ministry. Most of Gaza's 2.4 million inhabitants are displaced.

In Gaza City, five people were killed overnight when an Israeli warplane bombed the Mhana family home, emergency services said.

Yussef Al-Dalu said his neighbour's house had been reduced to rubble.

"I know that only defenceless civilians live in this house who are not part of any resistance [group]," he told AFPTV.

The Hamas-led 7 October attack resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Israel's war on Gaza has killed at least 36,801 people in the territory, according to the territory's health ministry.

Seventy were killed in the past 24 hours, it said.

Israel faced growing diplomatic isolation, with international court cases accusing it of war crimes and several European countries recognising a Palestinian state.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro announced Saturday his government would suspend coal exports to Israel "until the genocide stops".

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US diplomacy

Netanyahu also faces pressure from within his far-right coalition government.

After the announcement of the hostage rescue, Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz cancelled a news conference that was scheduled for Saturday, his office said.

Gantz, a centrist former military chief, said last month he would resign if Netanyahu did not approve a post-war plan for Gaza by 8 June.

Latest efforts to mediate the first ceasefire in the war since a week-long pause in November appear to have stalled a week after Biden offered a new roadmap.

World powers and Arab states have backed the proposal that Biden said includes an initial six-week pause and captive exchange as well as stepped-up delivery of aid into Gaza.

Hamas has yet to respond. Israel has expressed openness to discussions but remains committed to destroying the Palestinian group.

Major sticking points include Hamas insisting on a permanent truce and full Israeli withdrawal – demands Israel has rejected.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to visit Israel and key regional partners Egypt, Jordan, and Qatar from Monday on his eighth Middle East trip since the war began.

(AFP, The New Arab, Reuters)