Gaza: 'Horror movie' scenes as Hamas says 210 Palestinians killed in area of Israeli hostage rescue mission

More than 200 Palestinians were killed as Israel raided Gaza to free four hostages, Hamas claims, in one of the bloodiest days of the war.

During the mission, hailed as "heroic" in Israel, the military said it freed the hostages under heavy fire and responded with strikes "from the air and from the street".

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But the ensuing attack on central Gaza's al Nuseirat, a historic Palestinian refugee camp, led to scenes like a "horror movie", according to residents.

While Israel acknowledged "under 100" Palestinian casualties, Hamas said at least 210 have been killed and more wounded - though it isn't clear how many were militants.

Gazan paramedics and residents said the assault killed scores of people and left mangled bodies of men, women and children around a marketplace and a mosque.

"It was like a horror movie but this was a real massacre," said Ziad, 45, a paramedic and resident of Nuseirat, who gave only his first name.

"Israeli drones and warplanes fired all night randomly at people's houses and at people who tried to flee the area."

"To free four people, Israel killed dozens of innocent civilians," he added.

Emergency services tried to ferry the dead and wounded to a hospital in nearby Deir al Balah, but many bodies were still lying in the streets, Ziad and other residents said.

The EU's high representative for foreign policy, Josep Borrell, said the reports of "another massacre" are "appalling".

"We condemn this in the strongest terms," he added. "The bloodbath must end immediately."

Israeli minister Eli Cohen hit back, accusing Mr Borrell of condemning the rescue when he should be criticising Hamas for "hiding the hostages" behind civilians.

Israel named the rescued hostages as Noa Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 22, Andrey Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 41, whom the military said are in good health.

They were all kidnapped from the Nova music festival during the deadly raid by Hamas-led Palestinian militants on Israeli towns and villages near Gaza on 7 October.

About 250 hostages were taken back to Gaza during that attack, with Israeli authorities believing 116 hostages remain.

Hostage release 'less likely'

Sky News international affairs editor Dominic Waghorn said Saturday's rescue operation may reduce the chances of others being released through negotiations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under pressure to make a ceasefire deal happen, but talks have so far stalled.

That pressure would have increased had his war cabinet partner and political rival Benny Gantz resigned over the lack of future strategy for Gaza, as he had threatened.

He's decided for now to postpone that move.

US President Joe Biden last week said he had every reason to believe the Israeli prime minister is prolonging the war to save his political skin.

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"Israel believes that military pressure is the best way of breaking their enemy. And Netanyahu's far right coalition partners oppose such a deal," Waghorn said.

"They want the campaign to continue until Hamas is completely destroyed, and many among them also fantasise about the resettlement of Gaza by Israel.

"A ceasefire deal could see Netanyahu's governing coalition fall apart. He has wanted to avoid that at all costs.

"Now that military efforts to rescue the hostages appear to be paying off, he may have less reason to pursue the diplomatic alternative."