Four hostages rescued, Gantz resigns from government


What’s happened: More details have emerged of the joint IDF, Shin Bet, and Police operation which successfully rescued four Israeli hostages on Saturday.

  • Almog Meir Jan, Shlomi Ziv, Andrey Kozlov and Noa Argamani were all rescued from captivity in the central Gazan town of Nuseirat. While Argamani was being held alone, the three men were held together in the home of a Gazan doctor, Ahmed Al Jamal, and his son Abdallah Al Jamal, a Hamas spokesman and journalist. All four hostages are thought to be in good health.
  • According to Palestinian sources, more than 200 Gazans are thought to have died in the course of the rescue, both combatants and civilians, with Hamas having sequestered the hostages in densely populated civilian areas.
  • Chief Insp. Arnon Zmora, an officer in the Border Police’s elite Yamam counter-terror unit, was killed during the rescue. After his death, the name of the operation was changed from ‘Seeds of Summer’ to ‘Operation Arnon’.
  • The operation was conducted with intelligence assistance from the UK and the US, in the form of drone surveillance. Palestinian sources suggest undercover officers posed as local Gazan refugees and Hamas fighters in the leadup to the mission.
  • Argamani, images of whose terrifying kidnap on a motorbike went viral on October 7th, was able to be reunited with her mother who is dying of terminal cancer.
  • In a tragic turn of events, Meir Jan’s father Yossi Jan died only hours before his son was recovered. “My brother died of grief and didn’t get to see his son return,” said Jan’s sister Dina. “The night before Almog’s return, my brother’s heart stopped. We are very happy about Almog’s return, but the brain is unable to absorb that this is the end. We are broken.”
  • Meir Jan’s mother Urit said, “When I see him here with us, I recognize how important it is to get all of them out, all of them. Make every effort. I’m happy. I received my gift. I have a birthday tomorrow, and I received my gift. I want this for all the families.”
  • Abdallah Al Jamal, a sometime Hamas Labour Ministry spokesman had written several articles published by the Palestine Chronicle during the course of the war, several while the hostages were being kept in his home.
  • “This is further proof that the Hamas terrorist organisation uses the civilian population as a human shield,” the IDF said.

Gantz resigns: In the wake of the successful rescue, Minister Gantz cancelled a Saturday evening press conference at which he was expected to announce his resignation from the government.

  • Gantz then resigned yesterday, along with fellow National Unity Party MKs and ministers Eisenkot and Tropper, accusing Prime Minister Netanyahu of preventing “true victory” in the war against Hamas.
  • In a speech, Gantz said he had taken his party into government and into the war cabinet “because we knew it was a bad government. The people of Israel, the fighters, the commanders, the families of the murdered, the casualties and the hostages needed unity and support like they needed air to breathe.”
  • However, Gantz accused Netanyahu of sacrificing national interests to those of far-right cabinet ministers Ben Gvir and Smotrich. “Fateful strategic decisions,” he said, “are met with hesitation and procrastination due to [narrow] political considerations.”
  • During Gantz’s speech, Netanyahu took to X (formerly Twitter) to say “Israel is in an existential war on multiple fronts. Benny, this is not the time to abandon the campaign — this is the time to join forces.”
  • Ben Gvir, who had recently removed his Jewish Power party from coalition cooperation, reversed that decision in the wake of Gantz’s resignation and demanded to join the war cabinet himself.

Context: The success in freeing four hostages is a huge tactical victory, but does not change the overall strategic picture.

  • The daring raid deep into a densely populated civilian Palestinian area, underscores the ability of Israeli special forces to pull off the unexpected, backed by rigorous intelligence and preparation.
  • The operation collectively lifted Israeli spirits and brought a rare moment of national pride and unity, amid so much ongoing pain and heartache.
  • In eight months, so far only seven hostages have been successfully rescued in the three separate operations.
  • 120 hostages remain in Hamas captivity. According to Israeli estimate, 41 are presumed dead and another 20 with unclear status.
  • Despite the successful operation, substantial challenges remain:
    • Fighting continues in southern and central Gaza.
    • Northern Israel remains under constant attack.
    • Over 80,000 people remain displaced from their homes.
    • In the south, some have returned home. However, concerns remain that with ongoing sporadic rocket fire out of Gaza, and Hamas remaining in power, their security cannot be guaranteed
    • There are ongoing concerns over Iranian nuclear enrichment, expressed most recently in last week’s IAEA resolution, sponsored by the UK, France, and Germany, which condemned Iran for continuing to hamper the agency’s monitoring of its nuclear sites.
    • Israel continues to suffer the loss of international legitimacy.
  • Gantz and Eisenkot’s resignation is not enough to bring down the government, that now returns to the narrow right wing and ultra-Orthodox make-up with 64 seats in the Knesset.
  • Their resignation will give further support to the various protest movements calling to release all hostages, end the war, and announce new elections.
  • When he first threatened to leave the government in May, Gantz presented the Security Cabinet with a demand to formulate a plan which should include six objectives:
    • The hostages’ return;
    • Toppling Hamas and demilitarising the Gaza Strip;
    • Deciding on an alternative regime for Gaza;
    • A return home by the residents of northern Israel by September 1st;
    • Promoting normalisation between Israel and Saudi Arabia;
    • Endorsing the plan to broaden military service to all Israelis.
  • Israel continues to facilitate the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza. On Sunday 60 aid trucks were unloaded on the Gazan side of Erez West, as well as 30 aid trucks that were unloaded from the US built temporary port. According to the COGAT, as of Sunday, “the content of 900 aid trucks is still waiting to be picked up by UN aid agencies.”
  • In addition, the IDF announced the establishment of the 11th field hospital in Gaza, as part of the effort to provide humanitarian aid to the residents of the Gaza Strip. “The field hospital compound has recently begun operating in the Al-Mawasi area within the Humanitarian Area in Khan Yunis. This hospital, the seventh to be established in Al-Mawasi, will be operated by the Red Crescent Organisation and is expected to include 40 beds, 3 operating rooms, and an intensive care unit.”

 Looking ahead: Without the National Unity Party in the government Netanyahu faces a dilemma, to cancel the inner war cabinet, to augment the inner cabinet with his hard right wing partners, or seek to include other more centrist figures voices from the opposition, possibly Gideon Saar or Avigdor Lieberman.

  • US Secretary of State Blinken arrives in the region today, his eighth visit since October 7th. He will visit Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Qatar where, according to the State Department, he will “discuss with partners the need to reach a ceasefire agreement that secures the release of all hostages.  He will emphasise the importance of Hamas accepting the proposal on the table, which is nearly identical to one Hamas endorsed last month.” Despite their resignations, Blinken is set to meet with Gantz and Eisenkot