How Israel rescued 2 hostages from Rafah

Early Monday in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Israeli forces conducted a daring raid to rescue two hostages, Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, from a Hamas-held apartment. The operation, executed under the cover of airstrikes, resulted in over 60 Palestinian fatalities, including women and children, stirring both relief and controversy.
The inside story

  • As per a Wall Street Journal Report, Israeli forces meticulously prepared for about a month before embarking on the daring rescue of Fernando and Luis. The operation was a concerted effort involving various Israeli units, including an elite police squad, Shin Bet intelligence service, and the Shayetet 13—Israel’s counterpart to the US Navy SEALs.
  • “We waited for the right timing and intelligence to move in,” Lt Col Richard Hecht, an Israeli military spokesperson, told WSJ.
  • The SWAT team’s preparation likely included weeks of rehearsals, focusing on entry tactics and handling the complexities of a densely populated area. “From the moment you explode the door, you’re already exposed. You have a few seconds to get to the terrorists and eliminate them. Then begins the evacuation operation,” David Tsur, a former commander of the police SWAT team, told WSJ.
  • The operation concluded with Israeli military strikes lasting about an hour to secure the men’s extraction.
  • As per the WSJ report, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, alongside top officials such as defense minister Yoav Gallant and Shin Bet Director Ronen Bar, closely monitored live footage of the critical rescue operation from a Shin Bet special operations room, the location of which is kept secret. Netanyahu described witnessing the SWAT team’s strategic placement of an explosive charge and their rapid advancement to the target. Shortly after, a triumphant message was broadcasted over the radio, declaring, “The diamonds are in our hands,” signaling the successful rescue of the individuals in question.

Why it matters

  • The successful extraction of Marman and Har, both holding dual Israeli-Argentinian citizenship, has buoyed Israeli spirits amid ongoing conflict with Hamas.
  • The Rafah raid underscores the extreme measures Israel is willing to take to combat Hamas, even as the strategy deepens rifts within Israel and draws international scrutiny.
  • The rescue operation, described as meticulously planned based on precise intelligence, highlights the complexity and risks of extracting hostages from conflict zones. The rescued men, previously abducted from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak, are among the few to be freed since the conflict escalated with Hamas’ cross-border raid last year.
  • The Israeli military says 31 hostages have died in that time, but PM Netanyahu said Monday’s rescue showed that military pressure should continue and he brushed aside international alarm at its plans for a ground assault on Rafah.
  • However, the raid’s toll exacerbates the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where Israeli offensives have already claimed thousands of lives and displaced the majority of the population.

What they are saying

  • A relative of one of the hostages said he had seen both freed men following their rescue and found them “a bit frail, a bit thin, a bit pale” but overall in good condition.
  • Idan Begerano, Har’s son-in-law, shared a moment of reunion at the hospital, indicating the profound personal impacts of these operations.
  • Begerano said Har told him immediately upon seeing him: “You have a birthday today, mazal tov.”
  • The men held long, tearful embraces with their relatives at the hospital, according to video released by Netanyahu’s office.
  • Meanwhile, Palestinian residents of Rafah recounted the terror of the airstrikes, questioning the justification behind the high civilian toll.
  • A young man could be seen carrying the body of an infant who he said was killed in the attacks. He said the girl, the daughter of his neighbor, was born and killed during the war. “Let Netanyahu come and see: Is this one of your designated targets?” he said.
  • “We were in the tent, me and all my family, when the bullets all came at us,” said Mai Al-Najjar, who had shrapnel wounds in her shoulder and face. She fought back tears as she described how her father had been killed in the car as they fled.

What next

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces growing pressure both domestically and internationally to resolve the hostage crisis without exacerbating the humanitarian situation.
  • US President Joe Biden and Jordan’s King Abdullah continued to advocate for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, as efforts to broker a truce between Israel and Hamas have intensified amid concerns over a potential Israeli ground assault in Rafah.
  • High-level representatives from the US, Egypt, Israel, and Qatar planned to convene in Cairo to advance a three-stage agreement aimed at facilitating the release of hostages and establishing a prolonged ceasefire, according to sources close to the discussions.
  • “The United States is working on a hostage deal between Israel and Hamas which would bring an immediate and sustained period of calm into Gaza for at least six weeks,” Biden told reporters at the White House.

(With inputs from agencies)

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