Israel on Monday announced the successful rescue of two hostages in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, prompting relief and renewed concerns about the escalating humanitarian crisis in the region. The operation, carried out by a joint military effort involving the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Shin Bet and the police, was aimed at freeing Fernando Simon Marman and Louis Har from captivity after almost 130 days since they were taken held captive by the Palestinian group Hamas.
Dramatic video footage released by the IDF shows the intensity of the rescue, with Israeli special forces under fire in the southern Gaza city.
Fernando Marman, 61, and Louis Har, 70, were among 253 hostages kidnapped during Hamas-led attacks on southern Israel in October. The hostages were held in a second-floor apartment, guarded by three terrorists who were neutralized by the Shin Bet security agency and the police’s elite Yamam counterterrorism unit.
“The hostages are in our hands, safe and sound”
🔴WATCH the moment hostages Fernando Simon Marman and Luis Har were rescued during the operation in Rafah yesterday: pic.twitter.com/1OXsHf9F9W
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) February 12, 2024
The successful rescue operation marked a rare positive development amid a four-month war that has devastated Gaza. However, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned against relying solely on such daring extractions to free the remaining 134 captives still in the Strip.
The IDF’s Shayetet 13 commando unit escorted Marman and Har to a makeshift helipad, facilitating their escape from Gaza. The hostages were taken out of the building using ropes to avoid detection on the street, a commander of the elite Yamam unit said. Times of Israel.
The operation, planned for weeks with various contingencies, demonstrated the effectiveness of Israel’s military capabilities. Defense Minister Gallant declared the rescue a “turning point in the campaign” against Hamas.
“The army and the Shin Bet have been working on this operation for a long time… and waited until conditions were right to carry it out,” Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari said at a news conference.
The Hamas-run Health Ministry reported “around 100” Palestinian casualties, including children, in intense overnight airstrikes. The already precarious humanitarian situation in Rafah, which hosts hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians seeking refuge from the conflict further north, has sparked widespread alarm from aid groups and foreign governments.
US President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, urging caution and highlighting the need for a credible plan to ensure the safety of those sheltering in Rafah. Qatar, Oman and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) joined the growing chorus of nations expressing concern about the possible advance on Rafah.