Israel on Monday announced the successful rescue of two hostages in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, sparking both relief and renewed concerns over the escalating humanitarian crisis in the region. The operation, conducted by a joint military effort involving the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), Shin Bet, and police, aimed to liberate Fernando Simon Marman and Louis Har from captivity after nearly 130 days since they were taken captive by the Palestinian group Hamas.
Dramatic video footage released by the IDF shows the intensity of the rescue, with the Israeli special forces coming under fire in the southern Gazan city.
Fernando Marman, 61, and Louis Har, 70, were among the 253 hostages kidnapped during the Hamas-led attacks on southern Israel in October. The hostages were held in a second-floor apartment, guarded by three terrorists who were neutralised by the Shin Bet security agency and police’s elite Yamam counterterrorism unit.
“The hostages are in our hands, safe and sound”
🔴WATCH the moment hostages Fernando Simon Marman and Luis Har were rescued during the operation in Rafah yesterday: pic.twitter.com/1OXsHf9F9W
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) February 12, 2024
The successful rescue operation provided a rare positive development amid a four-month war that has devastated Gaza. However, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant cautioned against relying solely on such daring extractions to free the remaining 134 captives still held in the Strip.
The IDF’s Shayetet 13 commando unit escorted Marman and Har to a makeshift helipad, facilitating their escape from Gaza. The hostages were taken out of the building using ropes to avoid detection on the street outside, according to a commander from the elite Yamam unit, as reported by Times of Israel.
The operation, planned for weeks with various contingencies, demonstrated the effectiveness of Israel’s military capabilities. Defense Minister Gallant declared the rescue a “turning point in the campaign” against Hamas.
“The military and the Shin Bet have been working on this operation for a long time… and they waited until the conditions were right to carry it out,” Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari said in a press briefing.
The Hamas-run health ministry reported “around 100” Palestinian casualties, including children, in heavy overnight airstrikes. The already precarious humanitarian situation in Rafah, which hosts hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians seeking refuge from conflict further north, has prompted widespread alarm from aid groups and foreign governments.
US President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, urging caution and stressing the need for a credible plan to ensure the safety of those sheltering in Rafah. Qatar, Oman, and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) joined the growing chorus of nations expressing concern over the potential advance on Rafah.