The Israeli army reported that Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, the two Argentines released in Rafah, southern Gaza, this Monday morning, are in “good medical condition.” Israel confirmed that there was “air cover and a wave of attacks” to accompany the recapture of captives, in an operation that left at least 67 dead, according to a spokesman for the Hamas-run Health Ministry.
This comes after warnings from the international community about Israel's planned offensive on the city, where 1.5 million people are sheltering.
Lots of tears and hugs
The freed hostages, supposedly brothers-in-law, were received by their families. Speaking from outside the hospital, family member Edan Begerano said of the reunion: “There were many tears, hugs and few words… we were very happy to see them.”
Louis Har and Fernando Simon Marman appear hugging members of their family in a new image published this Monday.
Fernando Simon Marman and Louis Hare reunite with their families after their release. Photo: Reuters
Bring Them Home Now, a group of family and friends of hostages taken by Hamas, posted the image on social media, welcoming the couple home.
“We are delighted to have him here with us. We will continue to demand the return of the 134 hostages,” the group said.
Israel's ambassador to the United Kingdom, Tzipi Hotovely, shared the same image and described the rescue as “a moment of triumph and relief.”
Reunion with loved ones at Sheba Medical Center, in Ramat Gan, Israel. Photo: Reuters
“This operation is a testament to our unwavering determination to #BringThemHomeNow,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
The release of the hostages was preceded by a harsh night of Israeli bombing in Gaza. In the entire enclave, 164 people have died, bringing the total death toll to 28,340 Palestinians since the Israeli offensive began in October following the Hamas assault on Israel on the 7th of that month. In that attack, 1,200 people died and more than 200 were taken hostage.
According to the Gaza Health Ministry, the only reliable official source on casualties in the enclave, 67 Palestinians died during the rescue operation of the Argentines, held on the second floor of a heavily guarded building in Rafah, a city where they are overcrowded. 1.5 million people in inhumane conditions.
Louis Hare hugs a family member. Photo: Reuters
Abou Suhhaib, who lives in the Shaboura neighborhood of Rafah, heard “loud gunshots” and “loud explosions” overnight during the Israeli airstrikes and hostage rescue operation.
Speaking to the AFP news agency, he said: “At around midnight, we heard the sound of loud explosions, as if hell had opened up on the civilians. Look what happened. The Israelis claim that they freed the hostages from this place , but we don't know what happened.
“We didn't see hostages here, but we saw a helicopter landing in this place and there was intense gunfire, as if it were a very big battle. The world has become hell for civilian lives.”
“In an apartment in the heart of Rafah”
In a statement, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Daniel Hagari said that Israeli forces They broke into a building “in the heart of Rafah.” The two men were found on the second floor, held by armed Hamas members in an apartment, he added.
Hagari related that from the moment of entry, The troops protected Marman and Har with their bodies, “initiating a bold battle and heavy exchanges of fire in several places simultaneously.”
These are Fernando Marman and Louis Har. They had been held captive since the attack on Israeli territory on October 7.
The couple was rescued from the apartment under fire, the spokesman said, while IDF forces “provided them with protection in the Rafah area until they reached a safe area.”
Hagari reported that the raid took place early in the morning at 01:49 local time (20:49 in Argentina).
“This is an operation we have been preparing for some time,” says Hagari.
Hamas took them both from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak on October 7 and has held them hostage ever since.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the two hostages home.
In a post on social media platform X, Netanyahu wrote: “Fernando and Louis, welcome home.”
Fernando and Luis – Welcome back home.
I salute our brave warriors for the bold action that led to their liberation. Only the continuation of military pressure, until complete victory, will result in the release of all our abductees.
We will not miss any opportunity to bring them home.
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) February 12, 2024
He then paid tribute to the “brave fighters” who rescued the two men, adding: “Only continued military pressure, until complete victory, will achieve the release of all our hostages.”