Israel-Hamas conflict: Israeli special forces free hostage as ground offensive meets localised clashes

IDF operations deepened within Gaza on Monday, with tanks active on strip’s coastal highway

Israeli special forces, operating in Gaza on Sunday night, freed a woman soldier hostage. Private Ori Megidish was serving as a lookout on the Gaza border when she was seized by Hamas gunmen who stormed into southern Israel on October 7th, killing 1,400 people.

The army kept details of the operation secret but stressed it was based on precise intelligence obtained by the Mossad and the Israel security agency Shin Bet. She was held alone in captivity without other hostages and was reported to be in good health.

Israeli television stations on Monday night broadcast live the wild celebrations at the Megidish family home in the southern Israeli city of Kiryat Gat, together with hundreds of wellwishers, after the soldier was reunited with her family.

The Israeli army deepened ground operations inside the Gaza Strip on Monday with tanks operating on the main north-south Salah-al-Din highway that runs the length of the coast.


Large troop reinforcements entered Gaza on Monday. In addition to the forces operating in the northern part of the strip, who entered over the weekend, other units have also penetrated into Gaza, further south.

It appears that the objective of the unfolding operation at this stage is to cut off Hamas forces in northern Gaza, including Gaza city, from the rest of the strip.

The forces that entered the strip encountered resistance, and it is believed that scores of militant fighters have been killed in the clashes to date. However, the resistance remains relatively isolated at this juncture, with localised clashes as opposed to all-out war.

Separately, Hamas released a video on Monday showing three women hostages, seized from two kibbutz farming communities. The women reportedly accused prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu of failing to act to stop the Hamas attack and now failing to rescue the hostages by enacting a ceasefire.

Mr Netanyahu described the video as a “cruel psychological warfare campaign by Hamas-Isis.” Addressing the hostages, he said, “I embrace you. Our hearts are with all the captives. We are doing everything to bring everyone back home.”

Israel believes 238 people are still being held hostage in Gaza, although Hamas claimed that some 50 were killed in Israeli air strikes. Four women hostages have been freed by Hamas.

More than 8,300 Gaza residents have been killed in the relentless Israeli air strikes, according to the Hamas-run ministry for health. Together with the growing humanitarian crisis there is also a fear of increasing civil disorder, after residents broke into storehouses belonging to the United Nations relief agency UNRWA and stole essential supplies.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said “the human suffering is shocking” in Gaza, adding that “even wars have limits”.

US state department spokesperson Matthew Miller promised on Monday that Washington will “continue our relentless diplomatic efforts in partnership with Israel, Egypt, the United Nations and international humanitarian partners to increase daily deliveries of food, water and medical supplies into Gaza.”

Mr Netanyahu made it clear that Israel is not interested in a ceasefire.

“Calls for a ceasefire are calls for Israel to surrender to Hamas, to surrender to terrorists, surrender to barbarism, that will not happen,” he said. “The Bible says there is a time for peace and a time for war. This is a time for war.”

Along the northern border, exchanges of fire took place throughout the day, with rockets and anti-tank missiles being fired at Israeli communities. Israel responded with artillery and drone strikes at Hizbullah and Palestinian militias in south Lebanon.

In Jerusalem, an Israeli police officer was stabbed and seriously injured. The assailant was shot and killed.

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem