The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) rescued two Israeli hostages on Sunday in the town of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, bringing elation to Israel and hope for the rescue of more hostages.
In a joint statement, the IDF, Israel Security Agency (ISA), and Israel Police said:
It was cleared for publication that during a joint IDF, ISA, and Israel Police operation in Rafah, overnight, two Israeli hostages were rescued, Fernando Simon Marman (60) and Louis Har (70), who were kidnapped by the Hamas terrorist organization on October 7th from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak.
They are both in good medical condition, and were transferred for medical examination at the Sheba Tel Hashomer hospital.
Security forces will continue to operate with all means in order to return the hostages home.
According to online biographies, Har is originally from Argentina. His release comes after the visit last week of Argentinian President Javier Milei, who visited families of Argentinian-Israeli hostages and survivors of the October 7 terror attack.
According to Israel’s Army Radio, the hostages were rescued from within, or underneath, a “refugee” camp in Rafah. Rafah is a town on the border with Egypt that is the last stronghold of Hamas, with four battalions thought to be hiding in the city.
Earlier Sunday, President Joe Biden warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to attack Hamas in Rafah until there was a credible plan for evacuating the roughly one million Palestinian civilians who have fled there from elsewhere in the Gaza Strip.
Many other nations have also tried to urge Israel not to attack Hamas in Rafah, ostensibly because of a humanitarian crisis that could ensue, or because of the possible flight of Palestinians into Egypt. Netanyahu has ordered an evacuation and attack plan.
The two hostages were the first ones rescued since the IDF rescued female soldier Ori Megidish in October. Three hostages were accidentally killed in December after they had escaped their Hamas captors and tried to cross over to Israeli lines during a battle.
Update: Israel’s Army Radio reported that the hostages were rescued from a building in an operation involving both ground forces and airstrikes, and that several terrorists were killed in the battle. The Israel Air Force struck targeted buildings after the hostages had been extracted.
The Times of Israel reported:
Asked on his first impressions of the pair, [Har’s son-in-law Idan] Bejerano said “They’re both in bed at the hospital. It’s difficult to know, but they look whole. Whether they’re healthy in spirit, in body, is still hard to know. But they look whole.”
“It seems they had strength of spirit for these 128 days, to remain strong and to come back to us.”
He notes that neither is young, with Har turning 71 in a few weeks’ time, and Marman having marked his 61st birthday in captivity.
There are 134 Israeli hostages remaining in Gaza, several dozens of whom are thought to be dead.
According to a local Jewish religious leader in New York, members of the Har and Marman families visited the Ohel, the gravesite of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, last week to offer prayers for their relatives’ release.
IDF Spokesperson Daniel Hargari posted a video and a photo of the arrival of the 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 quoted Hagari:
“The IDF and the Shin Bet have been working on this operation for a long time,” he says.
Forces clandestinely arrived at the target at around 1 a.m., and carried out a very complex action on the premises and the second floor where the hostages were held.”
He says forces then broke into the building through a locked door and exchanged fire with gunmen in the building and in adjacent buildings, while extracting the hostages to armored vehicles.
The rescue took an hour, Hagari said.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent book, “The Zionist Conspiracy (and how to join it),” now available on Audible. He is also the author of the e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.