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Two hostages rescued during Israeli operation in Gaza's Rafah

After postponing the operation several times, Israeli security forces entered early Monday morning the city of Rafah, rescuing two hostages.
People look at portraits of Israeli hostages held in Gaza since the October 7 attacks by Palestinian Hamas militants, as relatives and supporters rally calling for their release in Tel Aviv on February 3, 2024.

Two hostages — Fernando Simon Marman and Louis Norbeto Har — were rescued early Monday morning from captivity in Gaza by troops of the Israeli military, the Shin Bet and the special police anti-terror unit. 

Marman and Har, both dual Israeli and Argentinian nationals, were kidnapped from kibbutz Nir Yitzhak in the south of Israel on Oct. 7. Marman, 60, from the city of Kfar Saba, and Har, 70, from kibbutz Urim, were both taken from the home of Klara Marman, who was also kidnapped on Oct. 7, but freed on Nov. 28. Fernando Marman is the brother of Klara and Louis Har is her spouse.

Marman and Har were rescued from an apartment in Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip, in what the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Daniel Hagari described as an extremely complicated operation planned several days in advance. 

“The IDF and the Shin Bet have been working on this operation for a long time. Conditions were not ripe to carry it out until now, and we waited for them to ripen. Reaching the target in the heart of Rafah was very complex,” said Hagari.

He explained that the Israeli forces clandestinely arrived at the captivity site at around 1 a.m. local time to carry out the operation, liberating the hostages held in an apartment on a second floor of a building. The forces broke into the building through a locked door. They exchanged fire with gunmen in the building and in buildings nearby, while extracting the hostages from the apartment and transferring them to armored vehicles. A helicopter then took the liberated hostages to Shiba Hospital in Israel, where they are said to be in good condition.

While the rescue operation was carried out, other IDF forces attacked the Hamas Shabura battalion in Rafah, to distract their attention. 

"We have 134 hostages still held captive and we will do everything we can to bring them home," Hagari said.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said after the operation that he and the prime minister followed the operation from the command center. "We will continue to fulfil our commitment to bring the hostages back, any way possible," he said.

Argentinian President Javier Milei, who visited Israel last week, on his first visit abroad since being elected, welcomed the liberation of his countrymen. “The Office of the President thanks the Israel Defense Forces, the Shin Bet and the Israel Police for having successfully completed the rescue of the Argentines Fernando Simon Marman and Louis Har,” the office of Milei posted on the X platform. “During his visit to the State of Israel, President Javier Milei reiterated to President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the request for the release of each of the Argentine hostages, and continues to firmly maintain his condemnation of Hamas terrorism.”

The operation took place as the United States and European countries have been warning Israel against a ground offensive in Rafah, where more than 1 million Gazans are staying, after fleeing from the north of the enclave. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said over the weekend that whoever calls on Israel not to operate in Gaza, is essentially letting Hamas win, stating, “Those who say that under no circumstances should we enter Rafah are basically saying lose the war. Keep Hamas there.” Netanyahu said that Israel will operate according to international law, and enable the civil population to evacuate.

The war started Oct. 7 after Hamas launched an assault attack on southern Israel, killing up to 1,200 people and taking more than 240 individuals hostage. In response, Israel has since been conducting a military offensive against the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 27,500 Palestinians, mostly children and women, and left some 67,000 injured, according to Gaza's Ministry of Health.