1 of 7 | Fernando Simon Marman, 60, whom Hamas terrorists kidnapped on October 7 from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak, is reunited with his family at the Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva on Monday. Photo courtesy of Israeli GPO/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Israel successfully rescued two male Israeli hostages from Rafah in southern Gaza in a "daring" special operation overnight under the cover of a major air assault that killed at least 67 people in the city.
Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, were freed in a joint Israeli Defense Forces-Israeli Security Agency-Police mission in the early hours of Monday local time, the IDF said in a post on X.
Describing it as a complex operation "under fire" based on information from Israeli intelligence, IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari said the professional, precise raid was accompanied by "aerial coverage and a wave of strikes by the Israeli Air Force together with the Southern Command."
"We have prepared for this operation for some time, with the necessary preparations made and waiting for conditions that would allow its implementation. In the early morning, at 01:49, the special forces breached into a building in the heart of Rafah," Hagari told a press briefing.
"On the second floor, Louis and Fernando were held by armed Hamas terrorists, who were present in the building, along with terrorists in the adjacent buildings.
"From the moment of the breach and entry into the apartment, Yamam forces shielded Louis and Fernando with their bodies, initiating a daring battle and heavy exchanges of fire at several locations simultaneously, with many terrorists."
Hagari said the raid lasted a little more than 60 seconds before the special forces called in airstrikes and covering fire to facilitate the extraction of the hostages and the team.
The rescued brothers-in-law, who were kidnapped by Hamas from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak in southern Israel on Oct. 7, were reunited with their families at a hospital in Tel Hashomer, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office.
Netanyahu hailed the success of the rescue mission but warned there would be no let up in the intensity of the offensive in Gaza until Israel's war objectives were achieved.
"Only continued military pressure, until total victory, will bring the release of all our hostages," he wrote in a post on X.
However, health officials reported that 67 Palestinians had been killed in what the Gaza Health Ministry called in a Facebook post, "a massacre committed by the Israeli occupation in Rafah," with the death toll expected to rise as emergency services were still recovering casualties.
The ministry said the Rafah deaths bring the number of Palestinians killed in the past 24 hours to 164 and 200 injured, meaning that in total 28,340 people have been killed and 67,984 injured since Oct. 7.