Israeli forces rescue kidnapped soldier, the first since Oct. 7

Ori Megidish, center, poses with her family after her rescue from the Gaza Strip, Oct. 30, 2023. (Israel Security Agency)

by Ron Kampeas

(JTA) — Israeli forces rescued an Israeli soldier from the Gaza Strip, the first such successful operation since Hamas invaded Israel on Oct. 7, and the first since the terror group assumed control of the territory in 2007.

“Last night, our forces liberated Pvt. Ori Megidish from Hamas captivity,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday in a statement. “Ori was abducted on the black morning of October 7th. Welcome home Ori! I commend the [Shin Bet security service] and the IDF for this important and moving achievement, which expresses our commitment to bring about the release of all the hostages.”

The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that Megidish was “was medically checked, is doing well, and has met with her family.” The military released a photo of her at home with her family. Israeli media said she served in an observation capacity at the Nahal Oz IDF base on the Gaza-Israel border.

The body of another hostage, German-Israeli Shani Louk, was found on Monday, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said.

Hamas took some 240 people captive during the Oct. 7 invasion, in addition to killing more than 1,400 Israelis and wounded thousands. While Israel declared war on Hamas following the invasion and recently expanded its ground incursion into Gaza, the campaign to free the hostages has attracted widespread attention and support in Israel and from Jews and others across the world.

Rallies, public visual displays, a poster campaign and advocacy by world leaders have all called for the release of the hostages, many of whose relatives have spoken out publicly about their plight. Families of hostages are pressing the Netanyahu government to negotiate with Hamas to release the hostages, through a ceasefire or through a prisoner exchange. They cite the 2011 release of Gilad Shalit — an Israeli soldier taken captive by Hamas in 2006 — in exchange for some 1,000 prisoners. There have been subsequent negotiations for Israelis, dead and alive, held by Hamas that reportedly included Israeli offers of limited prisoner releases.

Hamas released a video Monday of three women pleading for an exchange. Netanyahu’s office called it “cruel psychological propaganda” and most Israeli media refused to air the video. The terror group had previously released footage of other hostages as well.

The rescue may be a morale boost for Israelis amid the war, in which the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry says more than 8,000 Palestinians have been killed. Israel has vowed to dismantle Hamas, and an increasing number of its forces entered the Gaza Strip over the weekend.

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