Israeli forces free hostages from Hamas in Gaza raid

| Updated: 13 February, 2024 5:28 pm IST

NEW DELHI:Israel announced on Monday that it had rescued two Israeli-Argentine hostages from Hamas captivity in Rafah, Gaza, in a daring raid that killed dozens of Palestinians and sparked international condemnation.

The hostages, Louis Har, 70, and Fernando Marman, 60, were kidnapped from a kibbutz in southern Israel on October 7, 2023, during a cross-border attack by Hamas that triggered the ongoing war.

They were held by armed Hamas militants in a building in the Shaboura area of Rafah, where nearly one million civilians have sought refuge from months of bombardments.

According to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), a special police unit, Yamam, stormed the building at 1:49 a.m. local time on Monday, under heavy fire from Hamas fighters in the adjacent buildings. The commandos shielded the hostages with their bodies and engaged in a fierce battle that lasted for several minutes. The IDF shared a video of the rescue mission on their social media accounts, showing the hostages being escorted out of the building and airlifted to a hospital in central Israel, where they were said to be in good condition.

The IDF said the operation was a “complex rescue under fire” that had been planned “for some time”. It also said it had conducted airstrikes on “terror targets” in the area during the raid, which Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said killed 67 people, including 12 children and 18 women. More than 200 people were wounded, the ministry added.

The rescue was praised by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said it showed the need for continued military pressure on Hamas. “We will not stop until we bring all our hostages home and restore security to our citizens,” he said in a statement.

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The Palestinian Authority, which governs parts of the West Bank, condemned the raid and accused Israel of committing war crimes. “This is a blatant violation of international law and human rights and a deliberate targeting of civilians and infrastructure,” it said in a statement.

The UN and other international actors called for an immediate ceasefire and a political solution to end the conflict, which has killed more than 28,000 Palestinians and 1,300 Israelis since October 7, 2023. The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply disturbed” by the reports of civilian casualties and urged all parties to respect international humanitarian law and protect civilians.

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