Skip to main content

'It was hell': More than 200 Palestinians killed during Israeli raid to rescue four hostages

Israeli air strikes devastate Nuseirat and Deir el-Balah in central Gaza, as Israel announces rescue of four captives
Mourners pray over victims of Israeli bombing in Al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital (MEE/Mohammed al-Hajjar)
By Mohammed al-Hajjar in Deir al-Balah, occupied Palestine and Alex MacDonald and Rayhan Uddin

More than 200 Palestinians were killed and at least 400 wounded on Saturday, as Israeli air strikes pounded central Gaza as part of a raid which saw the rescue of four Israeli captives from the embattled enclave.

The Gaza government media office said in a statement that at least 236 people were killed following Israeli strikes on Nuseirat and Deir el-Balah, with the majority of the fatalities women and children.

Videos posted on social media showed Palestinians ducking for cover as the sounds of missiles, shelling and gunfire rang out. The footage also showed bodies strewn in the street, with many of the victims appearing to be children.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


The media office said that dozens of injured people were "lying on the ground", and medical teams were trying to save them with "whatever capabilities available". 

Some of the heavy Israeli bombing took place in houses near to the hospital. In addition, people sheltering in the hospital were phoned by Israeli forces telling them to leave the facility.

'I've never seen anything like this. It's a catastrophe'

- Nidal Abdo, local resident

At least 32 people from the Abu Shalt family were killed in the attack and their bodies were recovered and brought to the hospital.

"The occupation has annihilated the Nuseirat refugee camp. Innocent and unarmed civilian were bombed in their homes. I've never seen anything like this. It's a catastrophe," local resident Nidal Abdo told MEE. 

"I came from the camp to here in the hospital on foot. I can't describe how we fled. I saw dead children and body parts strewn all over as we fled. No one was able to assist them. I saw an elderly man killed on a animal-drawn cart.

"Nuseirat was being annihilated. It was hell. "

As the bombing was ongoing, the Israeli military said in a statement that it had announced the rescue of four captives from Gaza during an operation in Nuseirat.

Khalil al-Tahrawi, another resident, told MEE that Israeli forces began bombing Nuseirat following the early morning rescue operation.

"Israeli warplanes began bombing us in all directions to cover up the withdrawal process that had taken place. I do not know exactly what happened because I was taking shelter on the ground, but I could hear the sound of gunfire and of shells falling."

Medical resources running low

In a statement, the Gaza media office said they held both Israel and the US responsible for the killings and warned that they were running of medical resources.

"Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital is the only hospital in the Central Governorate and is currently working on only one electric generator after the breakdown of one of the two generators that the hospital has been operating for eight months," said the statement.

"If one of these two generators stops, it portends a real disaster if the only [remaining] generator stops, and thus the hospital may be out of service. This hospital provides health service to a million people and displaced persons, and it cannot accommodate this large number of martyrs and injuries."

A media office spokesperson told Al Arabi TV that the Israeli army had called Al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital's administration and threatened to bomb the hospital if it was not evacuated.

The spokesperson also confirmed that Israeli special forces had infiltrated the market in Nuseirat camp.

According to the Gaza health ministry, 36,731 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, have been killed in Israel's bombardment since 7 October.

Saturday's rescue operation saw Noa Argamani, 26; Almog Meir Jan, 22; Andrei Kozlov, 27; and Shlomi Ziv, 41; who were abducted from an Israeli music festival eight months ago returned to Israel.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.