A Russian citizen was among those liberated during a daylight raid in the heart of the enclave An Israeli air force CH-53 Sea Stallion military helicopter flies over Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Centre in Ramat Gan, Israel, June 8, 2024 © AFP / Jack Guez

Israeli special forces rescued four hostages in a daylight raid on Nuseirat in central Gaza on Saturday, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has announced. Andrey Kozlov, a Russian citizen, was among those taken back to Israel under intense gunfire, the IDF said.

Noa Argamani, Almog Meir Jan, Andrey Kozlov, and Shlomi Ziv are currently undergoing medical examinations and will soon be reunited with their families, the IDF said in a statement, noting that all four are “in good medical condition.”

Israeli commandos rescued the four men from two separate buildings in Nuseirat, a sprawling refugee camp in central Gaza where Israeli forces have not conducted ground operations to date. The mission took place at 11am local time, after the IDF announced that it was targeting “terror infrastructure” in the area.

“This was a high-risk complex mission, based on precise intelligence, conducted in daylight, in two separate buildings deep inside Gaza,” IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told reporters on Saturday.

“While under fire inside the buildings, under fire on the way out from Gaza, our forces rescued our hostages,” Hagari continued. “Israeli forces have been preparing for this rescue mission for weeks. They underwent intensive training, and risked their lives to save the lives of our hostages.”

The four hostages were kidnapped when Hamas militants attacked the Nova music festival near the Israel-Gaza border on October 7. Kozlov, a Russian-Israeli dual citizen, was working at the festival as a security guard.

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Back in January, the Russian Foreign Ministry called for the “immediate release” of Kozlov and two other Russian hostages, Alexander Lobanov and Alexander Trufanov. While Hamas released two Russian nationals last year, Lobanov and Trufanov remain held in Gaza.

Hamas captured around 250 hostages on October 7. Around half of this number were traded for Palestinian prisoners during a week-long ceasefire in November, and seven have been rescued by Israeli forces. Some 120 hostages are still being held by Hamas, Hagari said on Saturday.

Hagari did not specify whether all 120 are still alive. The Israeli authorities previously said that as many as 40 may be dead.

Eight months into the Israel-Hamas war, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under intense criticism for his failure to return the remaining hostages. Families of the captives have staged protests demanding that Netanyahu strike a deal with the militants to secure the release of their loved ones.

In a statement on Saturday, a group representing these families described the rescue mission as “a miraculous triumph,” and thanked the IDF for the “heroic operation.”