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New details on Gaza operation and how it almost fell apart

RAMAT GAN, Israel — New details emerged Monday about the rescue of four hostages — a high-risk operation that proved to be Israel’s most successful of the eight-month war, but which brought death and horror to the central Gaza refugee camp where they had been held by Hamas.

The surprise daytime raid reunited Noa Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 21; Andrey Kozlov, 27; and Shlomi Ziv, 40, with their families, sparking emotional scenes of celebration and relief in Israel. For Jan’s family, the joy was tempered by grief following the death of his father on Saturday morning.

In the Nuseirat refugee camp, Palestinian families mourned after at least 274 people, including dozens of children, were killed during the raid, according to local health officials. The Israeli military acknowledged there were casualties, but estimated the number was less than 100 and said it did not know how many were Hamas fighters. NBC News could not independently verify the death toll.

An Israeli commando was also killed, the Israel Defense Forces said.

And on Monday the IDF confirmed to NBC News that a vehicle carrying the three male hostages broke down during the rescue operation while under militant fire. Commandos were forced to hastily load the hostages into a separate vehicle under fire before driving them to a waiting helicopter, the IDF said.

The rescue may have been perilously close to going badly wrong, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enjoyed a rare moment of triumph in the wake of its success. He quickly faced global outrage over the scale of the raid’s destruction in Gaza, however, as well as division at home following the resignation of a key rival from his war Cabinet and renewed concern from the families of remaining hostages.

Witnesses told NBC News’ crew in Gaza of the bloody intensity of the surprise Israeli assault, while the IDF described how the precarious operation unfolded.

‘We have the diamonds’

Among the hostages rescued on Saturday was Argamani, whose kidnapping during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks was captured in video that was shared around the world. She was seized alongside her boyfriend, Avinatan Or, who is believed to remain held in Gaza.

In a news briefing following the raid, IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Israeli forces launched their operation during the daytime to give them a greater element of surprise.

The United States provided intelligence in support of the rescue operation, according to a U.S. official with knowledge of the matter.

Argamani was held in an apartment about 200 meters away from the residence where the three other hostages were kept, Hagari said.

Both apartments were civilian homes in apartment buildings with roughly three to four storeys and families living in them, Hagari said, adding that both residences holding the hostages also had armed guards inside.

The IDF launched raids on both apartments simultaneously, Hagari said. He did not expand on how Israeli forces made their way into the heart of Nuseirat.

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