Miami Herald

Israeli forces rescue 2 hostages in Gaza raid that killed at least 67 Palestinia­ns



Israeli forces rescued two hostages early Monday, storming a heavily guarded apartment in a densely packed town in the Gaza Strip as airstrikes carried out to cover the raid killed more than 60 Palestinia­ns, including women and children.

The rescue in Rafah briefly lifted the spirits of Israelis shaken by the plight of the dozens of hostages held by Hamas. The nation is still reeling from the militant group’s cross-border raid last year that started the war.

The overnight bombardmen­t brought devastatio­n in Rafah, which is packed with some 1.4 million people, most of whom fled their homes elsewhere in Gaza to escape fighting. Associated Press footage showed a large area of flattened houses, tattered tents and lines of bloodied bodies taken into hospitals.

Israel’s offensive has killed more than 28,000

Palestinia­ns in the territory, displaced over 80% of the population and set off a humanitari­an crisis.

More than 12,300 Palestinia­n children and young teens have been killed in the conflict, Gaza’s Health Ministry said Monday. About 8,400 women were also among those killed. That means children and young teens make up about 43% of the dead and that women and minors together make up three-quarters.

The ministry, which does not distinguis­h between combatants and civilians in its counting of the dead, provided the breakdown at the request of The Associated Press. Israel claims to have killed about 10,000 Hamas fighters but has not provided evidence of that number.

In Hamas’ cross-border raid on Oct. 7, an estimated 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed, and militants took 250 people captive, Israel said.

Israel has said Rafah is the last remaining Hamas stronghold in the territory and signaled that its ground offensive may soon target the town on the southern edge of Gaza.

Israel says about 100 hostages remain in Hamas captivity after dozens were freed during a cease-fire in November. Hamas also holds the remains of roughly 30 others who were either killed on Oct. 7 or died in captivity.

The government has made freeing the hostages a top aim of its war, along with destroying Hamas’ military and governing capabiliti­es. But as the fighting drags on, rifts have emerged in Israel over how to retrieve them.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says military pressure will bring about the captives’ freedom even as families of the hostages and many of their supporters call on the government to make another deal with Hamas.


Israeli military spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said special forces broke into a second-floor apartment in Rafah under fire at 1:49 a.m. Monday, accompanie­d a minute later by airstrikes on surroundin­g areas. He said Hamas militants were guarding the captives and that members of the rescue team shielded the hostages with their bodies as the battle erupted.

The army identified those rescued as Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, who were abducted from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak on Oct. 7. They also hold Argentinia­n citizenshi­p. They are among just three hostages to be rescued; a soldier was rescued in November.

The rescue, which Hagari said was based on precise intelligen­ce and planned for some time, is a morale booster for Israelis but a small step toward winning the release of the remaining hostages, who are believed to be spread out and hidden in tunnels.

Har’s son-in-law, Idan Begerano, who saw the released captives at the hospital to which they were flown, said the two men were thin and pale but communicat­ing well and were aware of their surroundin­gs.

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.


The airstrikes hit jampacked Rafah in the night, and dozens of explosions could be heard around 2 a.m. Ashraf al-Qidra, a spokesman for the Health Ministry, said at least 67 people, including women and children, were killed in the strikes.

Al-Qidra said rescuers were still searching the rubble. An AP journalist counted at least 50 bodies at Abu Youssef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah.

Mohamed Zoghroub, a Palestinia­n living in Rafah, said he saw a black jeep speeding through the town followed by clashes and heavy airstrikes.

“We found ourselves running with our children, from the airstrikes, in every direction,” he said, speaking from an area flattened by the strikes.

Footage circulatin­g on social media from Rafah’s Kuwaiti hospital showed dead or wounded children. The footage could not immediatel­y be verified but was consistent with AP reporting.

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 a neighbor, was born and killed during the war.


Netanyahu has said sending ground troops into Rafah is essential to meeting Israel’s war goals. On Sunday, the White House said President Joe Biden had warned Netanyahu that Israel should not conduct a military operation there without a “credible and executable” plan to protect civilians.

More than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million population is now crammed into Rafah, where hundreds of thousands live in sprawling tent camps and overcrowde­d U.N. shelters.

Biden’s remarks, made in a phone call with Netanyahu, were his most forceful language yet on the possible operation.

Discussion of the potential for a cease-fire agreement took up much of the call, a senior U.S. administra­tion official said. The official said that after weeks of diplomacy, a “framework” is “pretty much” in place for a deal to release remaining hostages held by Hamas in exchange for Palestinia­n prisoners and a halt to fighting.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss negotiatio­ns, acknowledg­ed that “gaps remain” but declined to give details. The official said military pressure on Hamas in the southern city of Khan Younis in recent weeks helped bring the group closer to accepting a deal.

Netanyahu’s office declined to comment on the call with Biden. Hamas’ Al-Aqsa television station earlier quoted an unnamed Hamas official as saying any invasion of Rafah would “blow up” the talks mediated by the United States, Egypt and Qatar.

Biden and Netanyahu spoke after two Egyptian officials and a Western diplomat said Egypt threatened to suspend its peace treaty with Israel if troops are sent into Rafah.

 ?? LOAY AYYOUB For The Washington Post ?? Palestinia­ns stand amid rubble on Monday after Israeli airstrikes killed more than 60 people in Rafah.
LOAY AYYOUB For The Washington Post Palestinia­ns stand amid rubble on Monday after Israeli airstrikes killed more than 60 people in Rafah.

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