March 1, 2024

Just in: Israel confirms successful rescue of two hostages in Rafah operation

Israel announced on Monday the rescue of two hostages in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where the Hamas-run health ministry said “around 100” Palestinians including children were killed in heavy overnight air strikes.

Israel is preparing for a ground incursion into the teeming city along the border with Egypt, where hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians have sought refuge from fighting further north.

The precarious humanitarian situation in Rafah has prompted aid groups and foreign governments, including Israel’s key ally the United States, to express deep concern over the potentially disastrous consequences of expanding operations there.

The Israeli military announced early Monday morning that two hostages had been rescued in a joint military, Shin Bet and police operation in Rafah after nearly 130 days in captivity.

In a statement, the army identified the two as Fernando Simon Marman and Louis Har, saying they “were kidnapped by the Hamas terrorist organisation on October 7th from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak”. Both were in “good medical condition”, it added.

“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,” army spokesman Daniel Hagari said in a briefing.

A firefight broke out as the hostages were being taken out of the building they were held in, he added, with air strikes targeting nearby buildings where shots were fired.

“Many terrorists were killed this evening during this operation and one of our fighters was slightly injured,” he said.

During the October 7 attacks, Palestinian militants seized about 250 hostages, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures. Israel says around 130 are still in Gaza, though 29 are thought to be dead.

The Hamas attack on southern Israel resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.

Israel has responded with a relentless offensive in Gaza that the territory’s health ministry says has killed at least 28,176 people as of Sunday, mostly women and children.

Dozens of hostages were freed by Hamas during a one-week truce in November that also saw the release of more than 200 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

Since then, Netanyahu has faced mounting protests and even calls for early elections, with relatives of the hostages frustrated over the pace of the rescues.

Renewed talks for a pause in the fighting have been held in Cairo, with Hamas open to a fresh ceasefire including more prisoner-hostage exchanges.

But a Hamas leader told AFP on condition of anonymity that an Israeli push into Rafah “would torpedo the exchange negotiations”.

The group’s military wing on Sunday said two hostages had been killed and eight others seriously wounded in Israeli bombardment in recent days, a claim AFP was unable to independently verify.




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