Israel Defense Forces (IDF), in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, freed two Israeli hostages Sunday. This brought joy to Israel and gave hope that more hostages could be rescued.
In a statement issued jointly, the IDF and Israel Security Agency (ISA) said:
The publication of the news that two Israeli hostages, Fernando Simon Marman (61) and Louis Har (71) who were abducted by Hamas terrorists on October 7th in Kibbutz Yitzhak, were rescued overnight during a joint IDF-ISA-Israel Police operation took place in Rafah.
Both patients are in good health and have been transferred to the Sheba Hospital for medical evaluation.
The security forces will continue their operations with all possible means to bring the hostages back home.
Both hostages are from Argentina, according to their online biographies. The release of these hostages comes following the visit of Argentinian president Javier Milei last week, who visited the families of Argentinian and Israeli hostages as well as survivors of the terror attack on October 7. Both men were taken from Kibbutz Nir Yitzchak in the terror attack of October 7.
Israel’s Army Radio reported that the hostages had been rescued either from inside or beneath a “refugee camp” in Rafah. Rafah, a border town with Egypt and the last Hamas stronghold is thought to have four battalions hidden in the city.
Joe Biden, the US President, warned Benjamin Netanyahu earlier Sunday not to attack Hamas at Rafah unless there was a plan in place for the evacuation of the approximately one million Palestinian civilians who had fled from other parts of the Gaza Strip.
Other nations have urged Israel to refrain from attacking Hamas at Rafah. They cited a possible humanitarian crisis or the possibility of Palestinians fleeing into Egypt as reasons. Netanyahu has ordered a plan of evacuation and an attack.
The IDF has rescued two hostages for the first time since October when it rescued Ori Megidish, a female soldier. In December, three hostages died accidentally after they escaped from their Hamas captors during a battle and attempted to cross Israeli lines.
Update: Israel Army Radio reported on the rescue of hostages from a building by ground forces and airstrikes. Several terrorists were also killed during the battle. After the hostages were freed, the Israel Air Force attacked targeted buildings.
The Times of Israel published:
When asked about his first impressions, [Har’s daughter-in-law Idan] Bejerano replied “They are both in bed at the hospital.” They look healthy, although it’s hard to tell. It’s hard to tell if they are healthy in both body and spirit. “But they appear whole.”
It seems that they were able to stay strong for 128 days and come back to us.
He points out that both are old, as Har will turn 71 in just a few short weeks and Marman celebrated his 61st in captivity.
There are still 134 Israelis held hostage in Gaza. Many of them are believed to be dead.
A local Jewish religious leader reported that members of the Har family and the Marman family visited the Ohel (the gravesite of Menachem Mendel Snowrson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe) last week to pray for the release of their relatives.
IDF Spokesperson Daniel Hargari shared a video as well as a picture of the arrival of hostages in Israel.
הותר לפרסום כי במבצע משותף של צה”ל, שב”כ ומשטרת ישראל (ימ”מ) ברפיח, חולצו הלילה שני חטופים ישראלים, פרננדו סימון מרמן (60) ולואיס הר (70) אשר נחטפו על ידי חמאס לרצועת עזה מניר יצחק ב-7/10.
מצבם של השניים טוב והם הועברו לבדיקות רפואיות במרכז הרפואי שיבא תל השומר. pic.twitter.com/S4GGCEhh8r
— דובר צה״ל דניאל הגרי – Daniel Hagari (@IDFSpokesperson) February 12, 2024
The Times of Israel cited Hagari
He says that the IDF and Shin Bet have worked on this operation for a long time.
“Forces arrived in the early hours of the morning and conducted a complex operation on the premises, including the second floor. Hostages were also held there.”
He said that forces broke into the building via a locked entrance and engaged in a firefight with gunmen inside the building as well as in nearby buildings while rescuing the hostages in armored vehicles.
Hagari stated that the rescue took about an hour.
Update 2: Hagari’s evening briefing elaborated on details of the overnight operations.
Early in the morning, at 0149, special forces broke into a building located in the center of Rafah.
The terrorists from Hamas were holding Louis and Fernando on the second floor. They were armed terrorists in the same building as terrorists in adjacent buildings.
Yamam forces began shielding Louis and Fernando from the moment they entered the apartment. They engaged in a fierce battle with terrorists at multiple locations, resulting in heavy firefights.
Israeli Air Force and Southern Command activated aerial fire by 01:50 to allow the disengagement of the force and to strike Hamas terrorists.
At this point, the IDF protected Louis and Fernando in Rafah until they reached the safe zone.
They were then airlifted to the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer by soldiers from Unit 669, where they received further medical care.
At the ISA command center, the Chief of General Staff, the Head of ISA, and the Police Commissioner were present along with other commanders. They made decisions from there and monitored and controlled the forces involved in the operation. The Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense, and others arrived at the center in the middle of the night to accompany the operation. The night was very emotional and tense.
The sacrifices of both the regular and reserve forces during the war were crucial to this operation, particularly those who died and were wounded in battle.
Israeli and Argentinian officials took to social media to thank the soldiers for rescuing the hostages and to welcome them home.
פרננדו ולואיס – ברוכים השבים הביתה.
אני מצדיע ללוחמינו האמיצים על הפעולה הנועזת שהביאה לשחרורם. רק המשך הלחץ הצבאי, עד לניצחון המוחלט, יביא לשחרור כל חטופינו.
לא נחמיץ אף הזדמנות להשיבם הביתה.
— Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) February 12, 2024
Netanyahu (via Government Press Office:) “Fernando, and Louis, welcome back.” I salute the bravery of our fighters who took such a daring step to free them. The release of our hostages will only be possible if we continue to apply pressure until victory is achieved. “We will not miss an opportunity to bring them back.”