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'The diamonds are in our hands': Gaza hostage rescue mission minute-by-minute

Forces moved stealthily in daylight to buildings holding Noa Argamani, Almog Meir Jan, Shlomi Ziv and Andrey Kozlov; Yamam officer Arnon Zamora fell rescuing three of them; hundreds of terrorists converged, leading to rare authorization for helicopters to land deep in Gaza

In the heart of the Nuseirat refugee camp, after eight months and one day in captivity in Gaza, one of the boldest operations since the war began took place. Noa Argamani, Almog Meir Jan, Shlomi Ziv and Andrey Kozlov, who were abducted from the Nova music festival on October 7, were rescued in Operation Arnon, named after Yamam commando Arnon Zamora, who was killed during the operation. Here is a minute-by-minute account of the mission.
Thursday, 6:30 PM: Following weeks of meticulous planning, drills and advanced intelligence tracking, the political echelon approved the operation initially dubbed Summer Seeds. The green light was given during a classified discussion, with details heavily compartmentalized, as they awaited the opportune moment to act.
Al Jazeera broadcast purporting to show IDF forces using humanitarian aid trucks to enter Nuseirat

Saturday, 10:00 AM: Two main strike teams, disguised as Arabs, launched from several directions toward the Nuseirat refugee camp near the coast. Moving stealthily in broad daylight, the forces approached the two buildings where the hostages were held, unnoticed by thousands of Palestinians and hundreds of local Hamas operatives.
According to Palestinian sources, the forces entered using a humanitarian aid truck, and Al Jazeera aired footage purportedly showing IDF vehicles from the moments following the operation. The IDF denied this, as well as any use of the American pier.
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מסוק צה"ל
מסוק צה"ל
(Photo: REUTERS/Marko Djurica)
10:45 AM: Special ground surveillance and airborne technological tracking confirmed the area was clear, with no suspicious movement detected in the two buildings, each 3-4 stories high. Noa Argamani was held in one building, while the other three hostages were in the second building, along with Gazan families and armed guards.
10:50 AM: Live information and footage of the alleys, spanning hundreds of meters between the two targets, were transmitted to screens in the two command centers overseeing the operation: the Shin Bet's central command, attended by service head Ronen Bar and IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, and the Southern Command in Be’er Sheva, where the regional commander directed the surrounding forces and the rescue operation.
Footage from hostage rescue mission in heart of Gaza
(Video: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

11:00 AM: The two ground teams receive the go-ahead command, personally approved in real-time by the Shin Bet head and IDF chief. They storm the buildings simultaneously to prevent the terrorists in the second target from discovering the operation and endangering the hostages.
11:10 AM: While the elimination of the guards and the rescue of Argamani proceed relatively smoothly, the operation in the second building encounters significant complications. Chief Inspector Zamora's team reports casualties during the firefight. After neutralizing the terrorists, the commandos tend to their wounded commander and attempt to evacuate him under heavy gunfire.
11:15 AM: The eagerly awaited message is relayed over the radio: "The diamonds are in our hands," indicating the hostages are secured.
Palestinian footage of operation in Nuseirat

11:20 AM: Amid the delay, dozens of terrorists gather around the building where the three hostages were held, with hundreds more armed with RPGs, PK machine gun, and AK-47 rifles approaching from all directions. They navigate through the narrow alleys and the nearby market, crowded with thousands of Gazans.
11:22 AM: The forces attempt to escape in the rescue vehicle, but it is hit by heavy fire and begins to falter. In response, Southern Command chief Yaron Finkelman activates a pre-planned extraction strategy.
11:25 AM: Air Force fighter jets and helicopters fire dozens of munitions at the terrorists to isolate the area. Hundreds of reinforcements from the 7th Armored Brigade, Paratroopers, Givati and Kfir brigades, mobilized as backup, are deployed on foot, in tanks and Namer APCs into the refugee camp, with Navy vessels providing cover from the west.
Footage from hostage release operation
(Video: Reuters)

11:30 AM: Reinforcement troops and the Air Force successfully isolate the main combat zone, securing a safe escape route for the main force with the three hostages. In a rare move, Southern Command authorizes Air Force Sikorsky helicopters to land deep within the Gaza Strip for extraction, under the cover of fighter jet fire. Aerial strikes target terrorists just a few dozen yards away from the soldiers.
11:50 AM: The last special forces operatives board the helicopters, which take off for hospitals in Israel. Despite continued efforts to resuscitate Chief Inspector Zamora during the flight, he is pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital. Reinforcement troops from IDF brigades maintain engagement with terrorists on the operation's perimeter, eliminating dozens more until the mission concludes.
1:33 PM: The IDF, Shin Bet and police officially announce the rescue of the four hostages, prompting spontaneous celebrations both in Israel and among Israelis abroad.
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