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Alternative News

Report from Gaza: “Devastating” Israeli Raid to Free 4 Israeli Hostages Kills 270+ Palestinians


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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Israel is continuing to bombard Gaza with airstrikes and artillery today with attacks on Gaza City in the north, Deir al-Balah in the center and Rafah in the south. At least 40 Palestinians have been killed, over 200 injured in the last 24 hours.

The latest attacks follow one of the single bloodiest Israeli assaults on Gaza over the last eight months. On Saturday, Israeli forces conducted a daytime raid on the Nuseirat refugee camp that freed four Israelis held hostage in Gaza since October 7th. The hostages were being held in two apartments in the camp. Israel called in heavy strikes from the land, air and sea to cover their evacuation to the coast. At least 274 Palestinians were killed in the attack, including at least 64 children. Nearly 700 were wounded, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza.

The Biden administration reportedly provided intelligence to Israel to aid the hostage rescue effort. The intel included drone imagery collected over Gaza. Hamas later released a video claiming three other hostages, including an American citizen, were killed in the Israeli bombardment.

Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called for an emergency U.N. Security Council session on what he called “the bloody massacre carried out by Israeli forces,” unquote, on Nuseirat.

We go now to Gaza to speak with the journalist Akram al-Satarri. He was at the Nuseirat refugee camp Saturday. He’s joining us from outside the Al-Aqsa Hospital nearby in Deir al-Balah, one of the last functioning hospitals in Gaza, which was overwhelmed with casualties on Saturday.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Akram. If you can reconstruct for us what took place in this Israeli effort, not clear if it was aided by the United States, to free Israeli hostages — they were successful in freeing four — the what is being described by the United Nations, among others, as a massacre of over 270 Palestinians?

AKRAM AL-SATARRI: Good morning, Amy.

I will start by describing the things in the word of the people who are living, moment by moment, second by second, the destruction and the death and the devastation and the continuous fire that has been caused by the Israeli forces in that particular area.

To start with, people saw a special — like was described by the people, a special truck that was carrying luggage for internally displaced people, and it proved to be special forces disguising themselves as internally displaced people. They had a ladder, and they set up the ladder on the wall, and they were climbing into the building. But before climbing into the building, there were unmanned drones that were technically gunning down every single person who was in the area. They were shooting at everyone. And then there were some F-16s that were targeting sensitive areas.

It was 11 a.m., a very special time, with people going to the market, and also was targeting a very special time — a very special place, which is the market, with hundreds and thousands of the people in the market trying to get food for their families, trying to find whatever they can to feed themselves and their families. And then the whole thing started concurrently. The unmanned drones were shooting. The artillery fires was targeted at the buildings. And the also F-16s were dropping bombs on all the different junctions and intersections of the street. And people who were in the market were trying to flee, were escaping, hiding in the small shops, hiding under the rubble of the areas that were targeted. And that continued for around 30 to 45 minutes.

And the result of that was the killing of around 274 and also the injury of nearly 700, like you have just rightly said. There are some people who are still under the rubble, because the Civil Defense in Gaza has been struggling because of the lack to fuel and because of the lack to heavy machinery that would help them remove the debris of the homes, and that’s why they are still struggling ’til now. When I was in the street even two hours after the incident took place, I saw people who were struggling to remove whatever they can remove from under the rubble of their houses.

Children were shot and dead. Elderly people were shot and dead. Women were shot and dead. And young people also were shot and dead. In summary, everyone who happened to be in that area or in the area of the Nuseirat market or in the two neighborhoods that were targeted, every single person who was there was killed. Every single house that was there was targeted. And according to local sources, around 98 houses were targeted. And that’s why the large number of people who were injured and killed.

So, it was not a military confrontation between, like, paramilitia or just armed groups and the Israeli army. It was, rather, intensified targeting of all the civilian infrastructure in the areas, and Israeli army was paving the way for the special forces so that they would end their and complete their operation successfully. And the success, as defined by them, is the release of the four hostages, while they think the 400 Palestinians or the 1,100 Palestinians who were killed and injured, they perceive them as a collateral damage.

And now in Nuseirat this issue is still continuous. There was some bombardment today, and there was some bombardment yesterday, and the bombardment is continuous throughout the Gaza Strip. But the number of the people who were killed and the type of the people who were killed, including the number of children and women, like you rightly said, is quite devastating and shocking.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Akram, you’re standing outside of the Al-Aqsa Hospital, one of the last remaining functioning — at least partially functioning — hospitals in Gaza. With this number of people killed, over 270, and more, the number of people injured, up to 700, can you talk about what is happening inside, as Doctors Without Borders says Al-Aqsa and Nasser Hospitals are overwhelmed?

AKRAM AL-SATARRI: Indeed, they were overwhelmed, and they are still being overwhelmed. They are receiving injured and killed people every single minute in Gaza. Now, as I’m talking to you, if you may see in the background people who came there to pick their dears, to pick their family members, to pick their sons, to pick their husbands, to pick their grandchildren, and they are waiting there outside. And not far away from this area, you would see the morgue. In the morgue, tens and even hundreds of bodies are laid on the ground, and people come. And right in this spot that you are seeing now, they are performing the — what they call the burial for the — the prayers for the preparation for the burial. So, they take their dears, and they go to the hospital. And every single minute, there is a new victim, be it a child, an elderly man or a woman or woman or a younger woman or man. And people are just mourning them and coming to that area and living with that continuous destruction and fear.

And when it comes to the Shuhada Al-Aqsa Hospital, Shuhada Al-Aqsa Hospital received around half of the victims, half of the ones who were killed. Al-Awda Hospital in al-Nuseirat also received 166 people who were killed and more than 250 of people who were injured. And it was already overwhelmed. Shuhada Al-Aqsa Hospital has a bed capacity of around 240. And now they had to deal with hundreds of people all together coming there seeking help, crying for help, orderlies wanting to be sure about their overall health, with some other people who are claiming the bodies of their relatives. The hospital is overburdened. It has already the capacity of 240 beds, while they have inside around 650 cases.

When you walk inside Al-Shuhada, Al-Shuhada Al-Aqsa Hospital, you would see people sleeping on the ground. You see people who are injured, with, like, fixation on their legs, with casts on their legs, with the saline into their veins. But they are staying on the ground, sleeping on the ground, receiving the medication on the ground and still struggling on the ground, because they are not properly dealt with. And the health systems are overburdened by that ongoing and increasing influx and flow of people to that hospital.

Nasser Hospital is struggling. Shuhada Al-Aqsa Hospital is struggling. Al-Awda Hospital is struggling. And also other primary health clinics that were set up around different areas, including also some hospitals that were built by different international organizations, are receiving an increased number of victims, and that thing is overburdening every actor in the area. And that makes the mission of the medical teams almost impossible, and that increases the number of victims who are falling because either the direct targeting or because of the repercussion of not receiving the proper and timely healthcare.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about Hamas’s reports that while four Israeli hostages were freed, three were killed in the Israeli attack, including an American. What have you heard about this in Nuseirat?

AKRAM AL-SATARRI: Well, Hamas made a special statement after the operation that was conducted in al-Nuseirat refugee camp. Normally when they make a statement, they support that statement with footage to make sure that they back their claim. They backed their claim with the footage, and they said in that statement that at least three other hostages were injured and were killed. And they provided the footage that supports that claim, and they said that one American citizen was killed amongst those people who were killed.

I think that was an attempt from Hamas to show that Israel is resorting to force, and Israel is not worried about the life or about the quality of life of those prisoners, and Israel is not worried about the general Palestinian population when they are falling dead or injured by that. This is part of a fight between Israel and Hamas. This is part of an intelligence warfare and psychological warfare between the two parties. And the response of the people in Gaza, that Israel did this to them without taking into consideration that there were children and mothers and fathers and grandfathers and general population in that area, and they think Israel is going to continue that.

And Hamas, from their side, said that what exactly happened in al-Nuseirat is going to affect the lives of the Palestinians and the Israeli captives and is going to change also the way they are being dealt with, which means they have been saying that they will change the lenient measures they have been following. Like, for instance, one of the Israeli captives, who’s a female, said she was walking down the streets of Gaza. When she’s bored, they would take her. She would go. She would visit some places and come back. And I think now, with this operation taking place with the very heavy price paid by the Palestinians, Hamas and al-Qassam are going to change the way they are dealing with the prisoners, and that would bring more difficulty to their lives.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to also ask you about the situation on the ground overall in Gaza, Akram. The U.S. is saying humanitarian aid has resumed in Gaza. Can you talk about the dire needs on the ground? UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinians, cites a UNICEF report that nine out of 10 children in the Gaza Strip are experiencing severe food shortages, are experiencing hunger, nine out of 10 children.

AKRAM AL-SATARRI: Yes, and I think the very same percentage applies to the adults in the Gaza Strip. The situation is extremely dire. And I would bring to your attention the fact that the World Food Programme has just announced today, a couple of hours ago, that they have suspended all their operations in Gaza City because of the insecurity and because of the very deteriorating security situation that has been taking place. They announced also that two of their warehouses were targeted just today, and one of their staff was injured, which gives you an insight into the extremely difficult situation and challenging situation for the international organizations and for the local organizations, as well, when you are actively engaging with the community, trying to provide them with food, trying to provide them with water supplies, trying to supply them with medical care, and then you are being targeted, your staff are being injured, and you find it extremely difficult to move from one area to another. So, today, the World Food Programme announced the stoppage of its activities and said that’s because of the food security situation — because of the security situation in Gaza, that is likely to increase food insecurity.

So, the situation is extremely catastrophic. And the ground operations and the bombardment and the lack to security and safety for the staff, either local ones or the international ones, adds insult to injury and makes things much more difficult for the people of Gaza. One million children in Gaza are suffering, because there are 1 million children in Gaza. The elderly people are also suffering. All the general population in Gaza is suffering, and even when it comes to access to water. They have a problem accessing the water because the water desalination units were affected by the ongoing bombardment. And now people are suffering from hepatitis A.

And as we are talking now, there are some people — more people are coming. Injured people are coming to the hospital. This is part of the daily routine in the Gaza Strip: more people coming, more people injured, more people deprived, more people suffering, more people losing, more people in despair. More people hope that something positive will happen to change the routine that has become in the Gaza Strip. And as you can see, a woman is taken inside. Another woman is following, and other family members are following them.

So, now it is not about the food. It’s more about the survival. And now the food is being weaponized for the sake of just torturing the Gazans more, for the sake of inflicting more pain on them and for the sake of just making them bow their heads. Now Gazans are totally and entirely displaced. Around 95% of the population is already displaced. And in the areas they are displaced, they don’t have access to proper services, to proper infrastructure, to proper food and to proper water. And they are left to suffer, and they’re left to face the death and fear, with no one extending a helping hand, except for the nominal support that has been extended. Eighty aid trucks in one day is nothing for Gaza, that needs around 1,000 truckloads a day. And now Gaza is suffering.

And as I told you, I repeat and underline the very important fact: The critical issue for Gazans is survival now. Food is being weaponized. We understand that all. But also another weapon is being used. In one of the internally displaced people shelters, today morning, in between Rafah and Khan Younis, the unmanned drones were technically shooting at everyone. I saw several children dead. I saw several women injured. I saw other women who was injured and killed. So, the security situation, because of the ongoing operations and because of a strict blockade that has been imposed on Gaza, is undermining people’s ability to cope and is wasting their life and wasting their energies, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Akram al-Satarri, we want to thank you so much for being with us, talking to us from Deir al-Balah, was just in Nuseirat after the Israeli military freed four hostages and killed what’s believed to be over 270 Palestinians, scores of them children.

When we come back, we’ll continue to look at this with a Palestinian American analyst in Washington, D.C., then two Israelis. One of them lost both parents in the Hamas attack of October 7th. Stay with us.

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