Penny Wong urges Hamas to release remaining hostages, calls for protection of civilians after deadly rescue operation

The federal government has reiterated its calls for a ceasefire in Gaza after four Israeli hostages held by Hamas were freed in a deadly rescue operation.

More than 200 Palestinians were killed and more than 400 wounded after Israeli forces heavily bombed the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza on Saturday, local officials said.

Four hostages captured by Hamas militants were found, including Noah Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 22, Andrej Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv,

The exact death toll of the operation has not been verified.

In a statement released Sunday, a spokesman for Secretary of State Penny Wong said, “We want all hostages released, civilians protected, and the parties agree to the cease-fire proposal presented by President Biden.”

President Biden last week outlined a three-phase proposal from the Israeli government that would lead to the withdrawal of troops from Gaza and the return of all remaining hostages taken in the October 7 attacks.

The rescued group of hostages were among 250 people kidnapped by Palestinian militants after Hamas attacked the Nova music festival in southern Israel last year.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-chief executive Alex Ryvchin said there were “tears of joy” in Jewish households at the news and called for the release of the remaining 120 captives.

“The rescue of Noah Argamani especially touched our community. The scene of Noa being dragged from a music festival and taken captive on the back of a motorbike, begging for her life, is one of the defining images of October 7,” Mr Ryvchin said.

“Last December, two of Noah’s best friends came to this country to raise awareness of her dire plight – and to know the joy her friends, along with her mum and dad, are feeling really warms our hearts.”

In a statement, Israeli officials confirmed that the freed captives were in good health and had since been transferred to hospitals in Israel for further tests.

Meanwhile, medical authorities and Palestinian media have reported that a large number of wounded Gazans have overwhelmed the remaining medical facilities in central Gaza, which are overwhelmed by a lack of medical equipment and generators.

Domestic tensions over Australia’s response to the conflict reached a boiling point this week after the federal government accused the Greens of fueling social divisions around the crisis.

Greens leader Adam Bandt said the federal government was “complicit in genocide” after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese claimed the minor party was encouraging pro-Palestinian protesters to target MPs’ offices.

The political debate worsened further after the Greens leader threatened to sue Attorney General Mark Dreyfus for defamation over his comments to the ABC about the party’s role in the protests.

Education Minister Jason Clare said on Sunday that people across Australia were “hurting” to see the scenes unfolding in the Middle East.

“Those dead bodies that we see on television for many Jewish Australians and for many Palestinian and Muslim Australians have names and their mother or father, their relatives, their family friends, and so they feel that personally, in a way that you and I probably have a hard time really, really understanding,” he told Sky.

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