The raid by Israeli forces in central Gaza on Saturday to rescue four hostages held by Palestinian militant group Hamas left at least 274 persons dead and hundreds injured, the besieged territory’s health ministry said on Sunday, the Associated Press reported.

The Israeli forces said that its personnel came under heavy fire and that they had responded during the operation.

The Israeli military action on Saturday in Gaza’s Nuseirat area, a built-up refugee camp, was the largest rescue operation since October 7, when the conflict started.

Israel’s war on Gaza began after Hamas’ incursion into southern Israel on October 7 that killed 1,200 people. The militant group had also taken over 200 people hostage. Some of them are believed to be still alive and in captivity.

Since October, Israel has been carrying out unprecedented air and ground strikes on Gaza. The attacks have killed at least 37,600 persons.

After Saturday’s raid, the World Food Program chief said that the organisation had suspended its relief distribution because “two of our warehouses, warehouse complex, were rocketed”.

The deaths and injuries created chaos at the already overwhelmed hospitals in Gaza.

“We had the gamut of war wounds, trauma wounds, from amputations to eviscerations to trauma, to TBIs [traumatic brain injuries], fractures and, obviously, big burns,” AP quoted Karin Huster of Doctors Without Borders, which works in Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, as saying. “Kids completely grey or white from the shock, burnt, screaming for their parents. Many of them are not screaming because they are in shock.”

The Israeli military said that it attacked “threats to our forces in the area” and that a special forces officer was killed in the operation.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz said that “only Israel’s enemies complained about the casualties of Hamas terrorists and their accomplices”.