Israeli security authorities announced early Monday that they had liberated two captives who were being confined in the southern Gazan city of Rafah, in one of the few instances of a successful captive rescue in Gaza since the commencement of the conflict.
The captives, Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, were undergoing assessments at a hospital in Tel Aviv and were both in good shape, in accordance with a collective statement from the Israeli military, the police and the domestic security agency, Shin Bet.
The statement was released at the same time as Israel declared that it had executed a “wave” of assaults on Rafah, a congested city at the boundary with Egypt where over a million Palestinian refugees are nervously anticipating an Israeli ground invasion. The military later confirmed that the strikes, which local news sources mentioned resulted in the deaths of at least a dozen individuals, had been a diversion to facilitate the liberation of the captives.
Mr. Marman and Mr. Har were part of more than 240 individuals captured during the sudden Oct. 7 incursion into southern Israel by Hamas and other militant factions, which subsequently prompted Israel to retaliate with extensive airstrikes and a ground invasion in Gaza. The statement indicated that the two men had been seized from Nir Yitzhak, near the Gaza border. No further details were immediately available.
Israel has been deliberating sending troops into Rafah, despite warnings from aid organizations, the United Nations, and the United States that the people taking refuge there have no alternative. Egypt has thus far declined to take in Palestinian refugees.
Around 100 of the captives taken in October were released during a weeklong cease-fire last year. The New York Times reported last week that Israeli intelligence officers had concluded that at least 30 of the remaining 136 captives had perished since the commencement of the conflict. Before Monday’s operation, Israeli forces had reported rescuing at least one captive.
The families of the captives have been urging Israel to prioritize discussions for their release. Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly rebuffed Hamas’s latest proposal of another cessation in fighting that would facilitate the release of some of the captives held by the militants.
However, Israeli officials have also indicated that their government was still open to negotiation, and Mr. Netanyahu stated in a televised interview on Sunday that his government was devising a plan to evacuate people from Rafah.
When asked during the interview with ABC News about the number of the remaining captives who were still alive, Mr. Netanyahu remarked, “Enough to justify the kind of efforts that we’re making.”
“We are going to strive to retrieve all those who are alive and, frankly, the bodies of the deceased,” he added.