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Israel-Hamas war: Hostages are rescued in Gaza, Israeli war cabinet shakeup


Is extreme heat frying the power grid? we ask an energy expert, but first to Israel, where there was joy over the weekend, with news of the rescue of four hostages who'd been held captive by Hamas in Gaza.


But inside Gaza, there was anguish, as the Israeli rescue raid killed more than 270 Palestinians, according to Gaza health authorities. And just ahead of a visit today to Israel by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, there was an Israeli government shakeup, as a key figure in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's war cabinet resigned late Sunday.

MARTIN: NPR's Hadeel Al-Shalchi is with us now from Tel Aviv with more. Good morning, Hadeel.


MARTIN: So what did it take to rescue these hostages?

AL-SHALCHI: Well, first of all, it was quite a deadly operation. Our producer, Anas Baba, talked to Palestinians who were sheltering in the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza - where the operation took place - and they described a scene of bloody chaos and confusion. They said they came under heavy fire as the Israeli military whisked the hostages away in a helicopter, and they said they saw dozens of Palestinian bodies lying on the streets afterwards.

The Israeli military said it was a raid that took weeks to prepare, and it was on two residential buildings where hostages were locked inside rooms. There was a gun battle with the guards, and one Israeli officer was killed. And then an Israeli army spokesperson said there was a high number of Palestinian casualties in the raid, but he blamed Hamas for holding captives in homes in the heart of a civilian neighborhood.

Now, here in Tel Aviv, cheers erupted when the news broke. I went to a rally that the families of the hostages and their supporters hold every Saturday, and I actually expected the mood to be a little bit more jubilant than it was. I talked to a number of people, and they basically said the same thing - we're happy that we have these four hostages back alive, but it's not enough. There are still 120 left in Gaza, and the government needs to do more and to accept a cease-fire with Hamas to bring them back.

MARTIN: And the day after this rescue, a key government official, Benny Gantz, resigned. What does his quitting the government mean?

AL-SHALCHI: So Gantz is a popular centrist politician, and he called on Netanyahu to hold elections by the fall - and polls actually show that he would beat Netanyahu in an election. Now, his departure won't actually topple the government, but it will force Netanyahu to rely more on his far-right coalition partners, who don't want an end to the war, and they're threatening to topple the government if it does. So Gantz has accused Netanyahu of putting his own political survival ahead of getting the rest of the hostages out of Gaza, and the prime minister urged Gantz not to resign in a post on social media, saying this was the time to join forces, as Israel is in an existential war. Gantz also hinted for the defense minister, who's also a centrist like him, to resign, but so far, the defense minister is staying put.

MARTIN: And Secretary of State Antony Blinken is making his eighth diplomatic trip to the Middle East in as many months of the war in Gaza, starting today. What might we expect from this?

AL-SHALCHI: So he is starting in Cairo and then arriving here in Israel later today, and is expected to meet with Netanyahu and other officials. Blinken is going to focus on pushing for President Biden's three-part cease-fire proposal, which was announced a couple of weeks ago. The White House called it an Israeli plan, but neither Hamas nor Israel have formally agreed to it, and yesterday, the U.S. requested the U.N. Security Council to vote on a draft resolution that supports Biden's cease-fire plan.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Hadeel Al-Shalchi, in Tel Aviv. Hadeel, thank you.

AL-SHALCHI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Hadeel al-Shalchi is an editor with Weekend Edition. Prior to joining NPR, Al-Shalchi was a Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press and covered the Arab Spring from Tunisia, Bahrain, Egypt, and Libya. In 2012, she joined Reuters as the Libya correspondent where she covered the country post-war and investigated the death of Ambassador Chris Stephens. Al-Shalchi also covered the front lines of Aleppo in 2012. She is fluent in Arabic.
Michel Martin
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.