The Israeli military said it rescued two hostages from captivity in the Gaza Strip early today, marking a small but symbolically significant success in its quest to bring home over 100 captives believed to be held by the Hamas militant group.
The two men were rescued from a residential building in the southern border town of Rafah in a raid that also killed at least seven people, according to Palestinian officials.
Witnesses reported at least 17 airstrikes, flares and Apache helicopter fire.
The army identified the two rescued hostages as Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, and said both were in good medical condition.
It said both men were kidnapped by Hamas militants from Kibbutz Nir Yizhak in the October 7 cross-border attack that started the Israel-Hamas war, now in its fifth month.
They are just the second and third hostages to be rescued safely.
Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht said the operation was based on “precise intelligence,” and that the site, located on the second floor of a building, had been watched for “some time”.
He said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined Israel’s military chief and other top officials as the raid unfolded.
Hamas militants killed an estimated 1200 people and kidnapped 250 others in the October 7 raid that triggered the war.
An Israeli air and ground offensive has killed over 28,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials.
Over 100 hostages were freed during a weeklong cease-fire in November.
Israel says about 100 hostages remain in Hamas captivity, while Hamas is holding the remains of roughly 30 others who were either killed on October 7 or died in captivity.
Israel has made the rescue of all hostages one of the main goals of the war.