The hostages and missing families
Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, the two hostages rescued from Gaza by Israeli forces.
The Israeli army said on Monday it rescued two hostages during a special operation carried out overnight in Rafah, a southern Gaza city hit by persistent Israeli airstrikes throughout the night.
The hostages are 60-year-old Fernando Simon Marman and 70-year-old Louis Har, both taken 128 days ago during Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7.
The two are in good medical condition and have been taken to the Sheba Medical Center in Tel HaShomer, the Israeli military said. The joint operation was carried out with the Israeli Security Service and the Israeli Police, the report said.
IDF spokesman Danial Hagari told reporters on Monday that the “covert operation with extraction under fire” began at 1:49 a.m. local time, followed by airstrikes.
Israeli forces met resistance, with the hostages being escorted out under Hamas fire before being taken to a safe location in Rafah for medical attention, he said. They were then flown out of Gaza by helicopter.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant praised the “impressive release operation” in a statement on X, formerly Twitter, saying he had been monitoring the operation at the Command Center along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and senior commanders.
Both hostages had been kidnapped from the Nir Yitzhak kibbutz, he added. Nir Yitzhak was one of several kibbutzim close to the Gaza border attacked by Hamas militants during their October 7 rampage, in which some 1,200 people were killed and more than 240 taken hostage.
Israel’s response has caused widespread destruction throughout Gaza. The Hamas-controlled Health Ministry in Gaza said the cumulative toll had risen to more than 27,500 deaths since October 7.
Palestinians walk past a residential building destroyed during an Israeli attack in Rafah, Gaza Strip, February 11, 2024.
News of the hostages’ release comes as Rafah has been ravaged by Israeli attacks. The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said on Monday that more than 100 people were killed in overnight airstrikes on Rafah, and the toll could rise as more people remain trapped under the rubble.
CNN cannot independently verify the figures. The PRCS had previously said the city was facing “intense targeting.”
At least two mosques and a dozen houses were targeted in the attacks, the Rafah municipality said on Monday.
The Israeli army confirmed on Monday that it has carried out “a series of attacks” on targets in the area of Shaboura, a district of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip.
“The strikes have ended,” the IDF said in a statement.
Hamas condemned the attacks on Monday, calling them “forced displacement attempts” and “horrific massacres against defenseless civilians and displaced children, women and the elderly.”
It also accused US President Joe Biden and his administration of bearing “full responsibility” for the civilian deaths.
On Sunday, Biden and Netanyahu discussed a deal to secure the release of hostages in Gaza, a senior administration official said, as well as Israel’s expected ground assault on Rafah.
According to the White House, Biden “reaffirmed his position that a military operation in Rafah should not proceed without a credible and actionable plan to ensure the safety and support of the more than one million people sheltering there.”
Rafah has become a last refuge for Palestinians fleeing south to avoid Israel’s air and ground campaigns in the rest of the crowded enclave. More than 1.3 million people are estimated to be in Rafah, most of whom have been displaced from other parts of Gaza, according to the United Nations.
And they have no remaining escape route; the city borders Egypt, and the only border crossing into that country, like the rest of Gaza’s borders, has been closed for months.
International alarm is rising ahead of an expected ground attack on Rafah, with Netanyahu brushing off mounting criticism of the plans – saying calls not to enter Rafah are like telling Israel to lose the war. He promised to provide safe passage for civilians, but provided few details.