'Safe zones are fiction': Dozens of Palestinians killed in Rafah raid to rescue Israeli hostages

More than 100 Palestinians were killed in airstrikes which were part of the operation, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, ITV News Correspondent John Irvine reports

Palestinians have faced more death and destruction in the latest airstrikes on Rafah, carried out by the Israeli military in an operation to rescue two Israeli hostages from Hamas control.

One aid worker who has just left the city, situated in southern Gaza, described the so-called safe zones in the area as "fiction".

"How many back up plans can someone have before they’re left with nothing except sleeping in the streets?" Tarneem Hammad, a Medical Aid for Palestinians Advocacy Officer, told ITV News.

"Deep inside, we all know that safe zones are a fiction and you just run from more dangerous places to less deadly ones,” she added.

Israeli forces stormed a heavily guarded apartment to rescue two hostages from the Gaza Strip early on Monday, in a raid using airstrikes which killed more than 100 Palestinians, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS).

The operation took place in Rafah, the city on the southern edge of the Gaza Strip where 1.4 million Palestinians have fled to escape fighting, with sprawling tent camps and overcrowded UN shelters.

Civilians were told to evacuate Rafah on Friday, but there are big questions as to where people should go, with most having already been displaced multiple times.

These photos are an aerial view of Rafah on October 13, 2023 compared to January 14, 2024, showing the huge influx of people who have been displaced since the onset of the Israel-Hamas conflict

Women and children were among those killed in the Israeli strikes, according to Dr Marwan al-Hams, director of the Abu Youssef al-Najjar hospital, and dozens were wounded.

"Without nappies anything is used ... [such as worn-out] clothes. In my case, I used to cover my kids in two nappies, each tied to the other so they would last longer," Mohammed Al Khatib, who has been displaced multiple times and is now sheltering in Rafah, told ITV News.

"Instead of nappies, others wrapped up their kids in nylon to prevent (much) leakage. This was done additionally to warm them up because they had to wear four layers – three of summer T-shirts and one of winter blouse," he added.

People who did survive the latest airstrike have been left uncertain as to what they should do and what they can expect to happen next.

Al-Hasan Swairjo, Oxfam’s officer in Rafah, told ITV News that his children were located where the airstrike hit.

When asked how he felt about news of ground forces entering Rafah, he said it would be "catastrophic".

"This is another nightmare that we will be very scared if it happens. It will be catastrophic. It will be a disaster in Rafah," he said.

"There are more than 1.3 million civilians are sheltering here... This will (kill) a lot of civilians and children and women and elderly people. It is not safe.

"We don’t know where to go. We heard a lot about their plans. We don’t where to go.

"We are human. We deserve to live. We want to live. We love to live. That's our message (to the world)."

Biden met with the king of Jordan to discuss facilitating a hostage release and pause in fighting in Gaza. Credit: AP

It comes as President Joe Biden met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II at the White House over growing concern over Israel's operation in Rafah and for talks set to cover the effort to free hostages held in Gaza.

“The key elements of the deal are on the table,” Biden said alongside the king, though "there are gaps that remain.”

He said the US would do “everything possible” to make an agreement happen: a pause to fighting for at least six weeks and the release of the remaining hostages held by Hamas.

More than 100 hostages were freed during a weeklong cease-fire in November, but Israel says about 100 hostages remain in Hamas captivity.

Hamas is also holding the remains of roughly 30 others who were either killed on October 7 or died in captivity.

Three hostages were mistakenly killed by the army after escaping their captors in December.

Louis Har (left) and Fernando Simon Marman (right) reuniting with relatives. Credit: Israeli Army / AP

Two hostages were freed on Monday in a rescue mission by the Israeli army.

They were identified as Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, who were reportedly kidnapped by Hamas militants from Kibbutz Nir Yizhak in the October 7 attack that triggered the war.

Army spokesman Daniel Hagari said the hostages had been held in a second-floor apartment in Rafah, under guard by Hamas gunmen, both in the apartment and nearby buildings.

Both men were airlifted to Sheba Hospital and were reported to be in good medical condition.

Mr Marman's niece thanked those who were responsible for bringing her uncle home and gave an update as to the men's health.

"They are okay, they are walking, they are a bit thin ... They are a little bit white ... They are happy for being rescued," Gefen Sigal Ilan told journalists, after meeting her uncle at Sheba medical center in Central Israel.

The men were reunited with their families after around four months in captivity

"It was very emotional to see them, to hug them, to feel them... It feels almost unreal," she added.

She also said she and her family would be continuing to fight for the release of the other Israeli hostages who are still thought to be being held by Hamas.

The remaining hostages are believed to be spread out and hidden in tunnels, likely in poor conditions.

Palestinians walk by a residential building destroyed in an Israeli strike in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024. Credit: AP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said sending troops into Rafah is necessary to eliminate Hamas.

He announced on Friday that he had asked the military to prepare to enter Rafah and evacuate hundreds of thousands of people.

Hamas militants killed an estimated 1,200 people and kidnapped 250 others in the October 7 raid.

An Israeli air and ground offensive has killed over 28,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials, displaced over 80% of the population and led to a massive humanitarian crisis.

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