Israeli troops have rescued a 19-year-old female soldier who had been held hostage by Hamas for 23 days. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said Private Ori Megidish has undergone medical checks and is “doing well.” She has been reunited with her family, but the IDF provided no details about the rescue operation.
The teenager is the fifth hostage to be released and the first soldier. Israel estimates around 240 other people including the elderly and children are still being held in Gaza. Most of them are Israelis, but some are from the US and multiple other nations.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Private Megidish home, saying the “achievement” by Israel’s security forces “illustrates our commitment to free all the hostages.” He also rejected calls for a ceasefire to facilitate the release of captives, or end the war, which he has warned will be “long and difficult. Calls for a ceasefire are calls for Israel to surrender to Hamas. That will not happen,” he vowed. The prime minister also said he has no plans to resign in the face of mounting anger over the failure of Israel’s security forces to predict and prevent the Hamas attacks.
Hamas which has freed four hostages has said it would let others go in return for the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel which has dismissed the offer. Mr. Netanyahu said the ground invasion “creates the possibility” of getting the hostages out, adding that Hamas will “only do it under pressure.”
Hamas released a short video on Monday (October 30) purporting to show three other female Israeli captives. One of the women delivers a brief statement criticising Israel’s response to the hostage crisis. Many media organisations refrain from reporting details of such hostage videos because they show individuals speaking under duress and are often used for propaganda purposes. Mr. Netanyahu called the video “cruel, psychological propaganda.”
Israeli ground forces are pushing deeper into Gaza, advancing in tanks and other armoured vehicles on the enclave’s main hub of Gaza City. The IDF has given few details about its operations including locations and troop numbers. It has declared a new “phase” in the war, but stopped short of describing it as an all-out ground invasion.
Israel believes much of Hamas’s forces and military infrastructure, including hundreds of kilometres of tunnels, are in Gaza City. Before the war it was home to over 650,000 people. The Gaza Health Ministry claims around 8,000 people have been killed in Gaza this month. There is no way to verify that number.
Photo: Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Rescued soldier Ori Megidish is in the centre.