This will give hope to the families of those still held in Gaza. Israel announced this Monday that it had released two hostages in Rafah, the final target of its offensive in the Gaza Strip, where the ruling Hamas reported “around 100 Palestinian deaths” during this nighttime operation. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his army to prepare an offensive on Rafah, on the border with Egypt, where most of the population of the Palestinian territory is currently massed, causing concern among the international community.
Hamas warned this Sunday that such an offensive would “torpedo” any agreement for the release of the hostages it still holds in Gaza. But Israel affirmed that the strikes on the night of Sunday to Monday were not part of the launch of this offensive, but of an operation to recover two hostages kidnapped on October 7 during the unprecedented attack by Hamas fighters in southern Israel.
Around 250 people were kidnapped in Israel on October 7 and taken to Gaza. A week-long truce in November allowed the release of 105 hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinians detained by Israel. Before the release of the last two hostages, Israel estimated that 132 were still detained in Gaza, with 29 believed to have died.
Who are the two freed hostages?
They are Fernando Simon Marman (60 years old) and Louis Har (70 years old), two Israeli-Argentinians. Both were recovered during a nighttime operation in Rafah carried out jointly by the Israeli army, Shin Beth (Internal Security) and police. Abducted from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak, the two men were taken to the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan for initial medical examinations.
Two hostages rescued during a mission last night in Rafah.
During a joint operation between the IDF, the ISA and the Israeli police, 2 Israeli hostages from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak were rescued: Fernando Simon Marman (60 years old) and Louis Har (70 years old).
They were both kidnapped “on the morning of October 7 in Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak,” according to the Hostage Families Forum.
How did the Israeli army carry out its operation?
Israeli forces burst “with explosives” into a building in Rafah where these hostages were being held, the army said. “A shooting took place and there was shooting from nearby buildings. The Air Force carried out strikes. Many terrorists were killed as well as one of our soldiers,” said army spokesman Daniel Hagari.
During a press conference this Monday morning, Daniel Hagari clarified that this operation had been prepared “for some time”. “Early in the morning, at 1:49 a.m. (Israeli time), special forces broke into a building in the heart of Rafah,” he added. According to him, the two hostages were on the second floor. Israeli soldiers reportedly protected them “with their bodies” during the exfiltration, which “triggered a daring battle and fierce exchanges of fire” in “several locations.”
“Three terrorists were killed in the building where they were detained,” according to an initial report from the Israeli army. These strikes hit 14 houses and three mosques in different areas of Rafah, according to the Hamas government.
Argentine President Javier Milei expresses his “gratitude”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised in a statement “our courageous warriors for the bold action which led to the release” of the hostages. “Only continued military pressure, until complete victory, will result in the release of all our abductees,” he wrote.
Fernando and Luis – Welcome back home.
I salute our brave warriors for the bold action that led to their liberation. Only the continuation of military pressure, until complete victory, will result in the release of all our abductees.
We will not miss any opportunity to bring them home.
The Hostage Families Forum for its part “congratulated the soldiers of the Israeli army who showed strength and bravery to obtain the release of two hostages”. Argentinian President Javier Milei expressed his “gratitude” to the Israeli army for its action.
Towards a “humanitarian catastrophe”?
Rafah has become the last refuge for Palestinians stuck on the closed border with Egypt, numbering 1.4 million according to the UN, the vast majority displaced having fled the war which has been raging for four months.
US President Joe Biden urged the Israeli Prime Minister, during a telephone interview this Sunday, to “guarantee the security” of the Palestinian population. Several states have warned of a “humanitarian catastrophe” in the event of an assault on the overcrowded city. Israel will provide “safe passage for the civilian population so that they can leave” the city, without specifying where civilians could take refuge.
“I don’t know where we will go” in the event of an offensive on Rafah, testified Farah Mohammad, who fled Gaza City. “There is no place to escape,” says this 39-year-old mother, who has lost all contact with her husband for a month. Washington “could not support a military operation in Rafah due to the density of the population”, indicated a senior official of the American administration, stressing that the civilian population has “nowhere where to go “.