Israel said on Monday that its armed forces rescued two Israeli hostages held by Palestinian militant group Hamas since October, in a military operation in southern Gaza’s Rafah city.
The two hostages, Fernando Simon Marman and Louis Har, were rescued in the operation involving the Israel Security Agency, or Shin Bet, the Israeli police and the Israel Defense Forces, the country’s military said in a statement.
Sixty-year-old Marman and 70-year-old Har are from the Nir Yitzhak Kibbutz, located close to the Gaza Strip. “They are both in good medical condition and were transferred for further medical examination in Israel,” the Israel Defense Force said.
Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said in a social media post that his country’s military will continue to fulfil its commitment to return the hostages, “in any way”.
This came amid heavy Israeli air strikes on the southern Gazan city of Rafah, which borders Egypt, BBC reported.
The war, which started after Hamas’ incursion into southern Israel, has continued for more than four months. Hamas had killed 1,200 people in the attack and taken more than 200 persons hostage. Some of them were released in November, as part of a brief ceasefire agreement, in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel and humanitarian aid. Some of the hostages taken by Hamas were killed during the conflict.
Over 28,000 Palestinians have been killed and over 67,000 have been injured in Israel’s relentless air and ground strikes in Gaza, resulting in a humanitarian crisis in the territory. Nearly 85% of the population has been displaced, aid agencies have said.
The Palestinian Red Crescent has reported several deaths caused by Israeli shelling in Rafah, according to the BBC. At least 112 more Palestinians had been killed by the Israeli military over the previous day, Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said on Sunday.
On Sunday, United States President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he should not go ahead with the military offensive in Rafah without a “credible” plan to protect civilians, AP reported. Nearly 1.5 million people displaced by the conflict are sheltering in Rafah.
Washington DC’s appeal to Tel Aviv, an ally of the United States, came after Egypt reportedly threatened to suspend its peace treaty with Israel if Israeli troops were sent into Rafah. Egypt fears that fighting in the border town could force the closure of the besieged territory’s main aid supply route.
Saudi Arabia also warned of “very serious repercussions” over strikes on Rafah.