Israeli forces conducted a daring rescue operation early Monday, entering a heavily fortified apartment in a densely populated area of the Gaza Strip to extract two hostages amidst intense gunfire and airstrikes. According to local authorities, these airstrikes resulted in the deaths of at least 67 Palestinians.
Israeli military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari stated that special forces breached a second-floor apartment in Rafah, facing enemy fire at 1:49 a.m., with airstrikes targeting surrounding locations just a minute later. Hagari revealed that Hamas militants had been guarding the captives, and members of the rescue team courageously shielded the hostages with their bodies during the ensuing combat.
The hostages, Fernando Simon Marman aged 60 and Louis Har aged 70, both with Argentinian citizenship, were abducted by Hamas militants from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak on October 7. They are two of only three hostages to have been rescued so far, with a female soldier having been rescued in November.
Although this successful rescue operation serves as a morale boost for Israelis, it represents just a small advancement in securing the release of the remaining hostages, who are believed to be dispersed and concealed within tunnels.
More casualties expected as Israel prepares for Rafah ground Invasion
The airstrikes targeted the densely populated area of Rafah in the dead of night, with numerous explosions reverberating around 2 a.m. Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesperson for the Health Ministry, reported that the strikes claimed the lives of at least 67 individuals, including women and children.
These airstrikes on Rafah coincide with Israel’s preparations for a major offensive, raising concerns among aid agencies about the potential for significant civilian casualties in one of the last relatively safe havens within Gaza. Approximately 1.4 million Palestinians, representing over half of Gaza’s population, have sought refuge in Rafah to evade Israeli bombardment, which has already left much of the enclave in ruins.
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The operation in Gaza has unleashed yet another tragedy in a conflict that has already claimed the lives of 28,340 Palestinians, displaced over 80% of the population, and triggered a massive humanitarian crisis. According to the Health Ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza, more than 12,300 Palestinian minors and approximately 8,400 women have been killed in the conflict, accounting for 43% and three-quarters of the total fatalities, respectively.