Who are the hostages freed by Israeli forces?

 

A combination picture shows (clockwise from top left) former hostages Almog Meir Jan, Noa Argamani, Andrey Kozlov and Shlomi Ziv in Ramat Gan, Israel, on June 8, 2024, after they were rescued by Israeli forces. [Israeli Army]

The four captives rescued by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip on Saturday had been abducted from a desert rave near the border during Hamas' wide-ranging assault into Israel on October 7. One had emerged as an icon of the agonizing hostage crisis that is still far from over.

Noa Argamani, 26, appeared in a series of videos that captured the painful trajectory of their plight.

In the first, filmed by the attackers, she is being forced onto a motorbike by several men after being seized with her boyfriend, Avinatan Or, whose whereabouts are still unknown. "Don't kill me!" she screamed with one arm outstretched, the other pinned down.

In another video released by Hamas in mid-January, she appeared gaunt and spoke — almost certainly under duress — of other hostages being killed in airstrikes months into Israel's massive offensive.

Almog Meir Jan, 22, kidnapped from Israel in a Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7, 2023, raises his hands after arriving by helicopter at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel, June 8, 2024. [Reuters]

And then there was a third video, in which she appeared in family photos in the background as her mother, a Chinese immigrant to Israel who has Stage 4 brain cancer, pleaded with her captors to release her only child so she could see her before she dies.

"I want to see her one more time. Talk to her one more time," Liora Argamani, 61, said. "I don't have a lot of time left in this world."

On Saturday, after eight months of captivity, Israeli forces rescued Argamani and three men who had all been kidnapped from the Tribe of Nova music festival, where Hamas and other militants killed more than 350 people in the worst massacre in Israel's history.

The rescue operation came amid a major Israeli air and ground offensive in central Gaza that has killed or wounded hundreds of Palestinians, including at least 94 killed on Saturday.

Less is publicly known about the other three hostages who were rescued Saturday.

Former hostages Shlomi Ziv and Andrey Kozlov after they arrived in Ramat Gan, Israel, on June 8, 2024. [Israeli Army]

Almog Meir Jan, 22, from a small town near Tel Aviv, had finished his army service three months earlier, according to the Times of Israel, an English-language Israeli website. A forum set up by the families of the hostages said he was supposed to start a job at a tech company the day after the attack.

Andrey Kozlov, 27, was working as a security guard at the festival. He had immigrated to Israel alone a year and a half earlier, and his mother came to the country after October 7, Israeli media reported.

In a phone call with Israel's President Isaac Herzog after his release, Kozlov spoke a mixture of English and Hebrew. He joked that his Hebrew had gotten better in captivity, saying, "I had a lot of practice with my new friends," referring to his fellow hostages.

Shlomi Ziv, 41, was working as a security guard and had gone to the party with two friends who were both killed, the Times of Israel reported. The hostage family forum said Ziv and his wife, Miren, have lived in a farming community in northern Israel for the last 17 years.

The hostage families forum said Argamani, Meir Jan and Ziv had marked birthdays in captivity. In announcing their rescue, the army had initially provided their ages when they were abducted.

Argamani began dating Or about two years ago after they met while attending Ben-Gurion University in her hometown of Beersheba and were planning to move in together in Tel Aviv, his mother told Israel's Ynet news website. She said her son had majored in electrical engineering and had been hired by the international tech giant Nvidia.

Yonatan Levi, a friend of Argamani, described her as a smart, free spirit who loved parties and traveling and was studying computer science. He said he had met her at a diving course in the Israeli city of Eilat on the Red Sea, and that a few months before her abduction she had asked him for help navigating insurance claims for her mother's care.

Rescued Israeli hostage Andrey Kozlov arrives in Ramat Gan, Israel, on June 8, 2024. [Reuters]

Hamas and other militants killed about 1,200 people in the October 7 attack and captured around 250 others, including men, women, children and older adults. More than 36,700 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the war, according to local health officials, who do not distinguish between fighters and civilians.

More than 100 captives, mostly women and children, were freed in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel during a weeklong cease-fire last year.

Talks on a similar deal to release the rest have dragged on for months, with Hamas insisting on an end to the war and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowing "total victory." U.S. President Joe Biden is rallying global support behind a multi-phase cease-fire proposal that would free all the hostages in return for an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

Last month, Hamas released an audio recording, purportedly of Argamani, in which she called on Israelis to pressure the government to secure the hostages' return through another deal.

Israeli authorities believe the militants are still holding around 120 hostages, with 43 believed to be dead. Survivors include about 15 women, two children under the age of 5 and two men in their 80s.

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