The Israeli military has said it rescued two male hostages from captivity in the Gaza Strip, 128 days after their abduction.
The two men were rescued from a residential building in the border city of Rafah during a raid that left at least seven people dead.
The military identified the two men as Fernando Simón Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, and said they were both in good medical condition.
Both men were kidnapped by Hamas militants from Kibbutz Nir Yizhak in the October 7 cross-border attack that started the war between Israel and Hamas.
Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht said the operation was based on “accurate intelligence” and that the site had been under surveillance for “some time”.
The military identified the two men as Fernando Simón Marman, left, and Louis Har, right, and said they were both in good medical condition.
This photo provided by the Israeli military shows an Israeli Air Force helicopter carrying the two hostages.
Palestinians walk past a residential building destroyed in an Israeli strike in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Sunday, February 11, 2024.
According to Hecht, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined Israel’s military chief and other senior officials as the raid unfolded.
The hostages were held on the second floor of a building that was attacked with an explosive charge during the attack, in which intense exchanges of gunfire took place.
At the same time, an airstrike was carried out to be able to withdraw forces, he said.
The airstrikes caused widespread panic in Rafah, as many people were asleep when the attacks began, said residents contacted by Reuters.
Israeli planes, tanks and ships were involved in the attacks, and according to residents, two mosques and several houses were hit.
The Israeli military said on Monday it had carried out a “series of attacks” in southern Gaza that have now “concluded”, without providing further details.
Before previous attacks on Gaza cities, the Israeli military had ordered civilians to leave without preparing any specific evacuation plan.
President Biden told Netanyahu on Sunday that Israel should not launch a military operation in Rafah without a credible plan to ensure the safety of the approximately 1 million people sheltering there, the White House said.
Smoke rises during the Israeli bombardment of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024.
Joe Biden called on Israel to ‘not proceed’ with military actions in southern Gaza without planning the evacuation of Palestinian civilians
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces growing international warnings about his army’s planned offensive in Rafah amid his war with Hamas.
Aid agencies say an attack on Rafah would be catastrophic. It is the last relatively safe place in an enclave devastated by Israel’s military offensive.
Biden and Netanyahu spoke for about 45 minutes, days after the US leader said Israel’s military response in the Gaza Strip had been “overblown.”
Netanyahu’s office has said he had ordered the military to develop a plan to evacuate Rafah and destroy four Hamas battalions it says are deployed there.
Hamas militants killed about 1,200 people and kidnapped another 250 in the Oct. 7 raid that sparked the war.
An Israeli air and ground offensive has killed more than 28,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials.
More than 100 hostages were freed during a ceasefire in November. Israel says around 100 hostages remain in Hamas captivity.
Netanyahu said in an interview on Sunday that “enough” of the 132 Israeli hostages held in Gaza were alive to justify Israel’s war in the region.
Hamas-run Aqsa television on Sunday quoted a senior Hamas leader as saying that any Israeli ground offensive in Rafah would “blow up” hostage exchange negotiations.
Egypt warned on Sunday of the “dire consequences” of a possible Israeli military attack on Rafah, which is near its border.
“Egypt called for the need to unite all international and regional efforts to prevent the attack on the Palestinian city of Rafah,” its Foreign Ministry added in a statement.