Israel has announced the successful rescue of two Israeli hostages in a raid in Rafah, amidst reports of intense Israeli air strikes on the southern Gazan city. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) stated that the hostages are in good health and have been taken to a hospital for medical examinations. The Palestine Red Crescent Society had previously reported that Rafah was under attack, with several casualties.
The IDF confirmed carrying out strikes in southern Gaza but did not provide further details. In a social media statement, the IDF identified the rescued hostages as Fernando Simon Marman (60) and Louis Har (70) from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak. The details of the operation were not disclosed, but Defence Minister Yoav Gallant praised it as “impressive”.
Israel’s military operations in the Gaza Strip were launched after more than 1,200 people were killed in southern Israel on October 7 by Hamas gunmen, who also took approximately 240 people hostage. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza reported an additional 112 Palestinian deaths from Israeli military action over the previous day, bringing the total death toll to over 28,100, with more than 67,500 injured.
The reported rescue raid in Rafah follows reports of numerous Israeli air strikes on the city’s north and centre. The international community has cautioned Israel against its planned offensive in Rafah, where 1.5 million people have sought refuge, most of whom have fled from other parts of Gaza. A senior UN humanitarian official stated that there is currently no safe place for these refugees.
US President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that any offensive in Rafah must include measures to ensure civilian safety. According to the White House, Biden emphasized the need for a “credible and executable plan” to protect over a million people in the city. Despite this, Netanyahu has insisted that the offensive will proceed and a plan is being prepared.