Israel says two hostages have been rescued from Gaza in a special operation after 128 days

Hostages and missing families

Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Haar, 70, were rescued from Gaza by Israeli forces.



CNN

The Israeli military said on Monday it had rescued two hostages during a special operation in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza that came under Israeli airstrikes overnight.

The hostages were 60-year-old Fernando Simon Marman and 70-year-old Louis Haar, both of whom were arrested 128 days earlier during Hamas' October 7 attack on Israel. According to the Hostage and Disappeared Families Forum, they are dual Israeli-Argentine nationals.

Both men are in good condition and have been transferred to the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, the Israel Defense Forces said. The operation was carried out in collaboration with the Israel Security Agency and the Israel Police.

IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari told reporters on Monday that the “covert operation to extract fire” began at 1:49 a.m. local time, followed by airstrikes.

He said Israeli forces met resistance and the hostages were evacuated under fire from Hamas, who would be taken to a safe place inside Rafah for medical attention. They were then evacuated from Gaza by helicopter.

Argentina's President Javier Millay's office praised Israel for the rescue and thanked the Israeli forces behind the operation.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, in what he called an “impressive launch operation,” said earlier in a statement on Twitter that X had followed the operation in a command center with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and senior commanders.

Netanyahu issued a statement on Monday welcoming the two hostages and praising Israeli forces. “Only the continuation of military pressure until complete victory will secure the release of all our hostages,” he said.

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Netanyahu has faced increasing pressure from the Israeli public to free those held captive in Gaza, with some families of hostages openly critical of the government's tactics.

Galant said the two hostages were abducted from the Nir Yitzhak Kibbutz. Nir Yitzhak was one of several kibbutzim near the Gaza border that came under attack by Hamas militants on October 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking more than 240 hostages.

After Monday's rescue, Hagari said the total number of hostages remaining in Gaza was 134. Of that number, 130 hostages are from the Oct. 7 attack — 29 dead and 101 believed alive. The other four were held in Gaza before the attack.

Most of the hostages were held by Hamas, although some were reportedly held by Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Israel's response to the Hamas offensive has caused widespread devastation across Gaza. The Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health in Gaza put the total number of deaths since October 7 at more than 27,500.

The two sides have been unable to reach an agreement to free more hostages since one collapsed in November. The deal resulted in a week-long ceasefire in the fighting in exchange for the release of more than 100 hostages, mostly elderly women and children.

And previous efforts to rescue hostages in special operations have gone awry; In December, Israeli soldiers shot dead three Israeli hostages After being misidentified as threats in Gaza.

News of the release of the hostages came as Rafah reeled from Israeli attacks. The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said on Monday that more than 100 people had been killed in overnight airstrikes in Rafah, and that the toll could rise as many more were trapped in the rubble.

CNN cannot independently verify the numbers. PRCS had previously said the city was experiencing “severe targeting”.

The Rafah municipality said on Monday that at least two mosques and about a dozen houses were targeted in the strikes.

Israel Defense Forces confirmed on Monday that they carried out “a series of attacks” on targets in the Shaboura area of ​​the Rafah district in the southern Gaza Strip.

“The strikes are over,” the IDF said in a statement.

Hamas condemned Monday's strikes, calling them “forced displacement efforts” and “brutal 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 free hostages in Gaza, according to a senior administration official, as well as Israel's anticipated ground attack on Rafah.

According to the White House, Biden “reaffirmed his view that a military operation in Rafah should not be undertaken without a credible and enforceable plan to ensure the safety and support of more than one million people.”

Rafa has become The last refuge for Palestinians The entire crowded area is fleeing south to avoid Israeli air and ground campaigns. According to the United Nations, more than 1.3 million people are believed to be in Rafah, the majority displaced from other parts of Gaza.

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And there is no way for them to escape; The city borders Egypt, and the only route into the country has been closed for months, along with the rest of Gaza.

Netanyahu brushes off growing criticism of plans for ground assault – calls for Rafah not to enter Like telling Israel to lose a war. He promised a safe passage for the public, but gave few details.

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