Israeli commander Arnon Zamora killed in daring raid in Gaza that brought four hostages home

The only Israeli soldier killed in a daring operation to rescue four hostages in Gaza was the commander of the country’s elite counterterrorism unit, officials said.

Arnon Zamora’s unit played a key role in the successful return of hostages Noa Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 22, Andrij Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 41, who were held captive in the Nuseirat refugee camp.

All four were kidnapped from the Nova music festival on October 7.

“Behind every rescue mission are Israeli men and women who risk their lives. “We are devastated to announce that Chief Inspector Arnon Zamora, commander and tactical operator in Yamam (National Police Counter-Terrorism Unit), who was critically wounded in a hostage rescue operation this morning, has succumbed to his wounds,” the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Saturday at X, without giving further details.

Mr Zamora lived in the village of Sde David near the Israeli town of Sderot – less than 15 miles (24 kilometers) from the border with Gaza.

He left his wife Michal, two children and parents Reuven and Ruthi, Haaretz reported.

Mr. Zamora fought in the battle of Yad Mordechai on Oct. 7, halting the advance of dozens of Hamas terrorists trying to infiltrate the country, officials said.

Other tributes to Mr Zamora also poured in on Saturday.

“I salute Chief Inspector Arnon Zamora, commander of the elite Yamam unit, who fell while leading a daring operation to rescue four hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. He lived and fell a hero,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in a statement to X.

Mr. Ziva’s sister Revital Nasi tearfully thanked the fallen hero’s family for his sacrifice to save her brother.

“We’re very sorry and we just want to say thank you,” she said Times of Israel.

Israeli hostage Noa Argamani has been reunited with his father after being rescued from Gaza

‘It Means the World’

Israelis celebrated the release of four hostages from Gaza in a military operation on Saturday, cheering on beaches and gathering outside a hospital where the former captives underwent medical examinations.

Footage circulated on social media showed beachgoers in Israel’s coastal commercial center of Tel Aviv cheering after a lifeguard announced the release of the four hostages over a loudspeaker.

Hilla Israeli, a 39-year-old teacher, said she was relaxing by the Sea of ​​Galilee in northern Israel when she heard the news.

“In an instant, everyone started pulling out their phones, people were coming out of the water, shouts of joy were coming from different directions,” she said.

“I was crying so excited – I couldn’t stop the tears.”

Uriya Bekenstein, 42, said it was a “very emotional day”.

“We have these hostages in our thoughts every day for the better part of a year – saving even a few of them after all means the world.”

The four were among 251 hostages taken during the October 7 Hamas attack that sparked the Gaza war, now in its ninth month.

Dozens were released during a week-long truce in November, but only three other prisoners were freed in Israeli military raids before Saturday.

There are now 116 hostages still being held in the Palestinian territories, including 41 the army says are dead.

‘Just a deal’

Thousands of people gathered in Tel Aviv demanding action from the government to end the war and return the remaining hostages home.

Yair Moses, the son of hostage Gadi Moses, told AFP that the rescue operation “gave me some hope because when we saw them, we saw that they were healthy, so it gave us a bit of a boost that they did get some food there.” .

Omri Shtivi, the brother of hostage Idan Shtivi, who turned 29 in captivity on Saturday, said: “We must remember that only the agreement will lead to the release of the vast majority of hostages.”

Outside the Sheba Medical Center in the eastern suburbs of Tel Aviv, where the four were treated, a group of people raised Israeli flags to celebrate their release.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with the four at the hospital, pictures shared by his office showed.

Netanyahu’s office previously released a video of him talking to Ms. Argamani on a cell phone after her release.

She told Netanyahu she was “very excited” to return home, adding, “I haven’t spoken Hebrew in a long time.”

Mr Netanyahu told her: “We have not given up on you for a moment.”

Ms Argamani’s father Yaakov, whose birthday was on Saturday, said: “I never believed I would receive such a gift.”

‘Eruption of Joy’

Pictures of Ms Argamani on a motorbike after the October 7 attack, crying: “Don’t kill me!” as it was held by Hamas militants, it made headlines around the world.

After her release on Saturday, she went to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, where her mother was being treated for brain cancer.

Ms Argamani’s mother, Liora, said in a widely shared video that she feared she would not have the chance to see her daughter again.

In a statement, Meir Jan’s uncle Aviram Meir called on the government to reach an agreement with Hamas on the release of the hostages.

“We want all the other hostages to come back with a deal,” he said.

An AFP reporter at Ichilov Hospital said patients lined the halls hoping to catch a glimpse of Ms Argamani.

“For eight months we’ve only been getting stabs in the heart,” said 72-year-old patient Shlomo Akad.

“There is no denying that she was a symbol of terror and fear for those who were there, for those who experienced it. And now, suddenly, joy erupts for the first time since she was saved.”

The October 7 attack left 1,194 people dead in Israel, mostly civilians, according to AFP, based on official Israeli figures.

Israel’s retaliatory bombing and ground offensive on Gaza has killed 36,801 people, including mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

— with AFP

This article was originally published on the NY Post and has been reproduced with permission

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