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Rescued hostage's 1st contact was IDF soldiers dressed as Palestinian women, girlfriend says


(NEW YORK) — As the secretive Israeli rescue operation began at 11 a.m. on Saturday in Gaza, hostage Andrey Kozlov first heard the gunfire and wondered whether he was in mortal danger, his girlfriend, Jennifer Master, told ABC News.

As intense gunfire rang out, the first Israeli commandos Kozlov saw were dressed like women, Master said, recalling what Kozlov told her upon his return to Israel.

The soldiers were wearing “a costume of a woman,” she went on, recalling what Kozlov told her upon his return to Israel.

“And he looked at them, and they’re like, ‘Andrey. Andrey. We love you. This is [Israel Defense Forces.] This is the soldiers. We love you. Come, come, come with us,'” added Master, was born in New York and is a U.S. citizen.

The secretive Israeli military operation in Nuseirat, a refugee camp in central Gaza, resulted in the rescue of four Israeli civilians from two separate apartments, IDF officials said.

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Rescued along with Kozlov, 27, were Almog Meir Jan, 22; and and Shlomi Ziv, 40. Noa Argamani, 25 was rescued from another building nearby. All four had been abducted from the Nova music festival during the surprise Hamas terror attack in Israel on Oct. 7.

The operation in Nuseirat has since come under scrutiny from international observers. Human rights officials with the United Nations said on Tuesday that Israel’s actions during the raid may amount to war crimes. The IDF said it launched airstrikes after its troops came under fire from Hamas from multiple directions.

“The manner in which the raid was conducted in such a densely populated area seriously calls into question whether the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution — as set out under the laws of war — were respected by the Israeli forces,” a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Tuesday.

Those officials also said armed Palestinian groups may also have committed war crimes by holding the hostages and keeping them in densely populated areas.

Officials with the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said about 274 Palestinians were killed during the operation, with hundreds of others injured. Israeli officials dispute that number, saying about 100 were killed.

Kozlov has in the days since his rescue repeated that he was “born again” during the raid, his girlfriend said. She said he’s mentioned that those tense moments have been replaying in his mind over and over, although some of it has already become a blur.

Kozlov thought when he initially heard the shots ringing out that he was about to be killed, Master said.

Then he realized that it was the Israeli military and “they saved his life,” she said.

“They saved our lives. We love them,” she added.

Master also said Kozlov had been physically and psychologically tortured in captivity.

And as a dual Russian-Israeli national, Kozlov’s captors treated him more harshly, she said.

“The fact that he is Russian and, Russia is close to Hamas … didn’t help him at all,” Master added.

“The terrorist, the guards, always, like, told him. Why did he come to Israel? Don’t you know that this is an occupied state?”

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