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In unusual operation, Israel rescues 70 orphans from Gaza, transfers them to Bethlehem

Israeli leaders say the operation was done at the request of Germany, Hamas was not consulted

Illustrative - Palestinian children in Rafah, in southern Gaza, Feb. 27, 2024. (Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Israel Defense Forces, in cooperation with the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) conducted an exceptional operation between Sunday and Monday to rescue more than 70 orphans from Gaza and transfer them to safety in Bethlehem, located in the West Bank.

The operation was conducted under the authority of Israel's National Security Council without the knowledge of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir.

During the operation, the children were removed from their orphanage in Gaza after it ceased to function due to the war. The orphans and their escorts passed through Israeli territory to reach Bethlehem, which is under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

The unusual operation, at the request of the German embassy, took place without any consultation with the Hamas terror organization and involved a large number of IDF troops to transport the children to Bethlehem.

The National Security Council did not notify the cabinet beforehand and several of Netanyahu's coalition members expressed anger at the move.

Ben Gvir and Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich both expressed outrage that Israel was investing its efforts to save Palestinian lives while Israelis are still being held hostage in Gaza. 

“Everyone who shows mercy to the cruel will end up being cruel to the merciful,” Smotrich said. 

“I demand clarification from the prime minister as to who gave this immoral order and with what authority while our abductees and their children are held captive by the enemy,” he continued. 

“This is not how a country that wants total victory operates,” Ben Gvir said. “In war, one has to crush the enemy and not all the time be sanctimonious.” 

Shlomo Naaman, the head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council and chairman of the Yesha Council – a collection of Israeli settlements in Judea – called on its residents to protest the transfer through their territory. 

“I call on the residents of Gush Etzion, Jerusalem, and our entire region, together with the entire public, to come to the tunnel road [where the orphans were transported] with Israeli flags, to identify with our abductees and to demand unequivocally – there is no [humanitarian] gesture to a cruel enemy without the return of our daughters and sons.” 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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