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Israeli hostage dies after ‘failed rescue mission’

Members of the Israeli army's infantry 6th brigade take part in an assault coordination exercise
Members of the Israeli army's infantry 6th brigade take part in an assault coordination exercise - Getty/Jalaa Marey

An Israeli hostage held in Gaza has been killed, his kibbutz community said, after Hamas claimed he had died in a failed rescue mission.

Sahar Baruch, 25, is the latest confirmed fatality among hundreds of Israelis and foreigners taken captive during Hamas’s Oct 7 attacks on southern Israel.

“It is with deep sorrow and a broken heart that we announce the murder of Sahar Baruch,” Kibbutz Be’eri and the Israeli Hostages and Missing Families Forum said.

The announcement came after the Israeli military said two special forces soldiers had been severely wounded in an attempted hostage rescue operation on Friday night.

“During the operation, numerous terrorists who took part in the abducting and holding of hostages were killed,” it claimed. “No hostages were rescued in this activity.”

Hamas’s Al-Qassam brigades said it had thwarted the attempted hostage rescue, claiming that a battle ended with one Israeli hostage being killed.

“A fierce gunfight broke out between the Al-Qassam fighters and the Israeli special forces, leaving many soldiers wounded while the captive Israeli... was announced killed,” Hamas said in an English-language statement.

Sahar Baruch, 25, is the latest confirmed fatality among hundreds of Israelis and foreigners taken captive during Hamas’s Oct 7 attacks
Sahar Baruch, 25, is the latest confirmed fatality among hundreds of Israelis and foreigners taken captive during Hamas’s Oct 7 attacks - Times of Israel

A two-minute video released by the terror group showed Baruch in captivity, speaking on camera. The clip then cuts to footage showing him lying still on the floor, likely dead, with bloodstains on his face.

The video also shows what appeared to be Israeli body-armour vests and other equipment Hamas said it had seized. The Telegraph was unable to verify its authenticity.

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) did not confirm or deny the Hamas statement.

“We are not going to comment on psychological warfare that Hamas continues to wage against the people of Israel,” said Eylon Levy, an Israeli government spokesperson, when asked about the military’s failed raid.

“We hold Hamas fully responsible for the safety and wellbeing of these hostages,” he said.

Kibbutz Be’eri, one of the communities targeted by Hamas in its initial October attack, said: “We will demand the return of Sahar’s body as part of any hostage exchange agreement.”

Tensions are rising between hostage families and the Israeli government, which has been accused of putting the destruction of Hamas before the return of the captives.

Raz Ben-Ami, 57, who was taken hostage and released during the truce, was so angry at the lack of action to assist her husband, Ohad, who remains in captivity, that she walked out in the middle of a meeting, recounted Ayelet Hakim, Ms Ben-Ami’s sister.

“It changed my sister completely,” said Ms Hakim, 55, a resident of Kibbutz Be’eri. “All she wants now is her husband back.

“First thing she said when she came out was: ‘Now we are going to bring Ohad back.’ That’s what she’s been doing since then.”

Heavy fighting begins

Israel on Saturday urged residents of six areas of the southern Gazan city of Khan Younis to leave “urgently”, amid heavy fighting along the length of the enclave.

Israel’s Arabic-language spokesperson posted a map on Twitter highlighting six numbered blocks of the city, including areas of its centre that had not been subject to such orders before.

Aid organisations have emphasised that there is no safe place in Gaza and that the safe zones are being bombed as well, with deliveries of food and other humanitarian aid almost entirely cut off.

Khan Younis, Gaza’s second city, is surrounded on two sides by Israeli tanks. The Israeli military has said that it is fighting house to house and “shaft to shaft” through Hamas’s tunnel network.

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Iran’s foreign minister, on Saturday warned of an “uncontrollable explosion” in the Middle East if the war continues.

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis on Saturday said they would target all ships heading to Israel, regardless of their nationality, and warned all international shipping companies against dealing with Israeli ports.

The Houthis have attacked and seized several Israeli-linked ships in the Red Sea and its Bab al-Mandab strait, a sea lane through which much of the world’s oil is shipped, and fired ballistic missiles and armed drones at Israel.