The Israeli army on Monday rescued two hostages, who were kidnapped by Hamas on October 7, in a special night operation in the southern Gaza neighborhood of Rafah. The rescue operation was carried out amid intense airstrikes by Israeli troops in which 37 people were reportedly killed and several others injured.
According to the Israeli military, a joint operation by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Israel’s Shin Bet national security service and the Special Police Unit in Rafah freed two men, Fernando Simon Marman (60) and Louis Har (70) of a residential building. .
According to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the rescued hostages are in “good condition” and were transferred for further medical examination in Israel. “During a joint operation between the IDF, ISA and the Israel Police, two Israeli hostages from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak were rescued,” the IDF wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter).
The army identified the two rescued hostages as Fernando Simón Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, and said they were both in good medical condition. He said both men were kidnapped by Hamas militants from Kibbutz Nir Yizhak in the Oct. 7 cross-border attack that started the war between Israel and Hamas, now in its fifth month. They are only the second and third hostages to be safely rescued.
Lt. Col. Richard Hecht said the operation was based on “accurate intelligence” and that the site, located on the second floor of a building, had been under surveillance for “some time.” He said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined Israel’s military chief and other senior officials as the raid unfolded.
Hamas militants killed about 1,200 people and kidnapped another 250 in the Oct. 7 raid that sparked the war. An Israeli air and ground offensive has killed more than 28,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials.
More than 100 hostages were freed during a week-long ceasefire in November. Israel says around 100 hostages remain in Hamas captivity, while Hamas is holding the remains of about 30 others who were killed on October 7 or died in captivity.
Israel has made the rescue of all the hostages one of the main objectives of the war.
Israel launched a special forces operation that freed two Israeli hostages in Rafah amid airstrikes early Monday that local health officials said killed 37 people and wounded dozens in the southern Gaza city.
The two men, who were kidnapped by Hamas from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak on October 7, were in good condition and taken to the Tel Hashomer Medical Complex, the military said.
“It was a very complex operation,” said Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht. “We have been working for a long time on this operation. We were waiting for the right conditions.”
The hostages were being held on the second floor of a building that was hit with an explosive charge during the attack, which saw intense exchanges of gunfire with surrounding buildings, Hecht said.
At the same time, an airstrike was carried out to be able to withdraw forces, he said.
The airstrikes caused widespread panic in Rafah as many people were asleep when the strikes began, said residents contacted by Reuters via a chat app. Some feared that Israel had begun its ground offensive in Rafah.
Israeli planes, tanks and ships were involved in the attacks, and according to residents, two mosques and several houses were hit.
The Israeli military said on Monday it had carried out a “series of attacks” in southern Gaza that have now “concluded”, without providing further details.
Before previous attacks on Gaza cities, the Israeli military had ordered civilians to leave without preparing any specific evacuation plan.
US President Joe Biden told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday that Israel should not launch a military operation in Rafah without a credible plan to ensure the safety of approximately one million people sheltered there, the White House said.
Aid agencies say an attack on Rafah would be catastrophic. It is the last relatively safe place in an enclave devastated by Israel’s military offensive.
Biden and Netanyahu spoke for about 45 minutes, days after the US leader said Israel’s military response in the Gaza Strip had been “overblown” and expressed grave concern about the rising number of civilian deaths in the Palestinian enclave. .
Netanyahu’s office has said he had ordered the military to develop a plan to evacuate Rafah and destroy four Hamas battalions it says are deployed there.
Hamas militants killed 1,200 people in southern Israel and kidnapped at least 250 in their Oct. 7 raid, according to Israeli counts. Israel responded with a military attack on the Gaza Strip that killed more than 28,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.
Netanyahu said in an interview broadcast Sunday that “enough” of the 132 Israeli hostages held in Gaza were alive to justify Israel’s war in the region.
Hamas-run Aqsa Television on Sunday quoted a senior Hamas leader as saying that any Israeli ground offensive in Rafah would “blow up” hostage exchange negotiations.
Egypt warned on Sunday of the “dire consequences” of a potential Israeli military attack on Rafah, which is near its border.
“Egypt called for the need to unite all international and regional efforts to prevent the attack on the Palestinian city of Rafah,” its Foreign Ministry added in a statement.