Israel conducted a special forces operation in Rafah early Monday, freeing two Israeli hostages amid ongoing airstrikes. According to an AFP report, the Hamas-ruled territory’s health ministry have reported that 52 people were killed and dozens wounded in the airstrikes in the southern Gaza city.
The Israeli military stated that a collaborative effort involving the Israel Defence Force (IDF), Israel’s domestic Shin Bet security service, and the Special Police Unit in Rafah successfully liberated Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Hare, 70.
As per the report, the military said that the two men, who were kidnapped by Hamas from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak on October 7, were in good condition and taken to the Tel Hashomer Medical Complex.
“It was a very complex operation,” Israeli military spokesman Lt Col. Richard Hecht told Reuters. “We’ve been working a long time on this operation. We were waiting for the right conditions.”
During the raid, the hostages, who were being held on the second floor of a building, were liberated after breaching the structure with an explosive charge. The operation involved intense exchanges of gunfire with surrounding buildings, stated Hecht. At the same time, an airstrike was carried out to allow the forces to be extracted, he said.
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Later, the Israeli military announced that a “series of strikes” on southern Gaza have “concluded,” without providing further details.
Airstrike Causes Widespread Panic In Rafah
Heavy air strikes hit densely crowded Rafah in southern Gaza began on Sunday night when many were asleep resulting in a widespread panic among the people. Some even feared that Israel had started its ground offensive into Rafah. Israeli planes, tanks and ships took part in the strikes.
The strikes hit 14 houses and three mosques in different parts of Rafah, according to the Hamas government, reported AFP.
Prior to previous assaults on Gaza cities, Israel’s military has directed civilians to evacuate without implementing any specific evacuation plan.
According to the White House, US President Joe Biden cautioned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday against initiating a military operation in Rafah without a credible plan to safeguard the approximately 1 million people seeking shelter there.
Aid agencies warn that an assault on Rafah would be catastrophic, as it is the last remaining relatively safe haven in an enclave that has been devastated by Israel’s military offensive.