This was the military operation in which Israel freed two hostages in the Gaza Strip

Israeli authorities rescued two hostages alive this Monday who were being held captive in Rafah, at the southern end of the Gaza Strip, between intense bombings that killed dozens of Gazans.

The freed hostages are the Argentine-Israeli Fernando SimĂłn Marman, 61, and Norberto Luis Har, 70, brothers-in-law between them and both kidnapped along with other relatives in the Nir Yitzhak kibbutz, near the enclave, on October 7.

The joint operation between the army, the Shin Bet security agency and the Israeli police, took place in Rafah, where more than 1.4 million Palestinians are concentrated today who fled the fighting in the rest of the enclave.

According to the Army and the Government, Israeli forces broke into the second floor of a building where the captives were held “with explosives,” “opened fire on nearby targets and freed the hostages.”

(Also read: Israel reaffirms that it will direct its offensive towards Rafah, despite international pressure)

“Gunfire then erupted from this building and neighboring buildings, followed by lengthy fighting, during which dozens of Hamas targets were bombed to allow soldiers to leave,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said.

This is the second successful hostage rescue achieved by Israel after capturing soldier Ori Megidish alive at the end of October. The two men were taken by helicopter to Sheba Hospital in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv, and are in stable condition.

The rescued Argentine-Israeli hostage Fernando Simon Marman.

Prime Minister Netanyahu celebrated this Monday that the operation is “one of the most successful in the entire history” of Israel. At the same time, its Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant, noted that the operation was “a turning point” in the campaign launched against Hamas.

This raid “upended our thinking and that of Hamas because suddenly Hamas is vulnerable, we can hit it anywhere,” he added. “There will be other operations,” he continued.

(You may be interested in: The United States and the ICC, concerned about a possible Israeli offensive against Rafah in Gaza)

The Hostage Families Forum, for its part, welcomed the release, although it urged the government to take further steps to free the 130 people who remain in Gaza. “Time is of the essence for the hostages. Their lives are in danger with every passing moment,” the Forum stated.

As the Israelis celebrated the release of the two hostages, In Rafah people recounted a terrifying night at the expense of the Israeli operation.

Rafah

Debris from a building in Rafah following the operation by Israeli security forces in the southern Gaza Strip.

The Gaza Health Ministry confirmed that 67 people died, without specifying whether they were civilians or combatants. although he estimated there were several dozen bodies still trapped under the rubble, so the death toll could exceed a hundred, according to medical sources and Hamas, which accused Israel of committing a massacre against unarmed civilians.

The Israeli offensive has so far left more than 28,300 dead in the enclave, especially women and minors, according to the Islamist group.

(Also: The 6-year-old girl who died in Gaza begging for help for hours under Israeli attack)

“The situation was hell,” said Abu Suhaib, who slept just dozens of meters from one of the places hit by Israeli forces. “We heard the sound of explosions, like hell falling on civilians,” added this 28-year-old, who also heard warplane shots, gunshots and a helicopter landing.

“It was a terrifying night,” said Alaa Mohammed, from northern Gaza, as he took down a tent in western Rafah. “What happened last night portends that something big will happen in Rafah. It seems that the Israeli army will enter,” he stated.

The operation in Rafah occurs amid growing international alarm over a possible invasion in the area and that, they warn, could have “disastrous” repercussions.

Loop

Evacuation of residents of Rafah, southern Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu announced over the weekend his intention to expand the ground offensive to Rafah, on the border with Egypt. and where more than half of Gaza’s population is concentrated, with the aim of defeating Hamas in its “last bastion.” The prime minister stated that he will guarantee “safe passage for the civilian population so that they can leave,” although without saying where they could take shelter.

The “possibility of a real military incursion in Rafah is terrifying,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, who also warned about the impact that the offensive would have on humanitarian aid, because Rafah is the main entry point for aid.

(Keep reading: What is known about the alleged Hamas tunnel found by Israel under UNRWA headquarters in Gaza?)

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, also said this Monday “deeply concerned about a potential ground offensive by Israeli forces in Rafah.” And the US, Israel’s main ally, insisted that would not support a “large-scale” Israeli military operation in Rafah without a plan to protect civilians.

Hamas, for its part, warned that the offensive would “torpedo” any hostage release agreement.

The parties are currently negotiating a deal and a source close to the talks told AFP there are plans for a meeting this Tuesday in Cairo. While US President Joe Biden announced this Monday that Washington is currently negotiating an agreement to release the hostages, accompanied by a truce of “at least six weeks” in the Strip.

INTERNATIONAL EDITORIAL
*With AFP and EFE

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