Israeli forces successfully rescued two Israeli hostages held in the Gaza city of Rafah, officials announced early Monday.
In a joint operation conducted overnight, the Israel Defense Forces, Israeli Securities Authority and Israeli police rescued Fernando Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, and evacuated them in a helicopter to the Sheba Tel Hashomer hospital inside Israel. Footage released by the IDF later showed Merman and Har hugging and embracing their families.
‘The hostages … were held captive in harsh conditions. They were intentionally held in the middle of a civilian neighborhood inside a civilian building to try to prevent us from rescuing them. But we did,’ IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari said in a video message this morning. ‘Fernando Marmon and Luis Har are now home in Israel. They have undergone medical examination and have been reunited with their families.
‘This rescue mission underscores the importance of our ground operation in Gaza, including Rafah, when conditions allow. One hundred and thirty-four men, women, children and elderly are still being held hostage in Gaza,’ Hagari added. ‘We have a moral obligation to bring all our hostages home, and that is an obligation that we will continue doing everything – everything in our power – to fulfill.’
Merman and Har were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists from the Nir Yitzhak kibbutz on Oct. 7, the day Hamas launched its attack against Israel.
Forces from the IDF Navy SEALs, the Shin Bet special operations unit and the Israeli police counterterrorism unit arrived at a building in Rafah to carry out the rescue operation, according to the IDF. The operation took place at around 1 a.m. local time.
‘Fernando and Louis, welcome home,’ Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. ‘I salute our brave fighters for the daring action that led to their release. Only continued military pressure, until total victory, will bring the release of all our hostages. We will not miss any opportunity to bring them home.’
An IDF spokesperson told reporters in a briefing that the forces managed to covertly reach the building and enter the second floor before blowing up the door of the apartment with an explosive and killing the three terrorists holding the two hostages.
The IDF and Shin Bet had been working on the operation for several weeks based on intelligence, an IDF official told Axios. The Israeli Air Force conducted heavy strikes in Rafah as a diversion to allow the rescue.
The Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza said dozens of Palestinians were killed in the bombardment, Al Jazeera reported.
Israeli officials notified the Biden administration of the operation following its completion, according to Axios.
As of Monday, 134 of the more than 240 hostages abducted on Oct. 7 remain in Gaza. More than 100 were freed as part of a temporary cease-fire deal in November. This includes Har’s wife, who is also Marman’s sister, and Marman’s other sister and niece.
Qatar and Egypt have been attempting to mediate a new hostage deal, but Israel and Hamas have yet to reach an agreement.
Fox News’ Greg Norman contributed to this report.