Liberation of Israeli hostages: Freed after 128 days

Liberation of Israeli hostages: Freed after 128 days

The Israeli military frees two men from Hamas hands. Relatives continue to demand a negotiated solution.

Fernando Simon Marman, one of the two freed Israeli hostages, meets his relatives Photo: Israel Defense Forces/handout via Reuters

JERUSALEM taz | Fernando Marman and Louis Har look exhausted and relieved as they hug their family after 128 days in Hamas hostages. The images of the 60 and 70 year old men, who were freed during a special operation in the southern Gaza Strip, surrounded by their relatives will be shown on all television channels on Monday. For the first time in around two and a half months, hostages are returning alive from the terror group’s violence in Gaza. Despite the successful action, relatives of those freed continue to demand a negotiated solution.

At 1:49 a.m., fighters from the border police’s elite Jamam unit broke into a “civilian building in a civilian neighborhood” in Rafah, according to the Israeli army. The hostages were freed “amid heavy firefights in several locations with numerous terrorists,” said army spokesman Daniel Hagari. The operation therefore took place on the basis of intelligence information and with support from air strikes. According to Palestinian information, dozens of Palestinians were killed, including women and children. A journalist from the AP news agency confirmed the arrival of several bodies at Abu Yussef al-Najar Hospital.

Defense Minister Joaw Gallant praised the operation on the online platform X and spoke of “an impressive rescue operation”. Marman and Har were taken to Sheba Hospital near Tel Aviv. According to initial investigations, both are in “good and stable” condition.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sees the deployment as confirmation of his uncompromising continuation of the war. In the morning he congratulated the emergency services and reiterated: “Only maintaining military pressure until complete victory will lead to the release of all our hostages.”

Continue calls for diplomacy

The former head of the Jamam unit, Major General of the Reserve David Tsur, called for continued focus on a diplomatic solution despite the successful liberation. “When we see a military opportunity, we must seize it, but we must also seize every opportunity to advance negotiations,” Tsur said. “There can be no either/or.” Any military action endangers the lives of the hostages as well as those of the emergency services.

Last week, Hamas responded to a proposal brokered by the USA with far-reaching demands. Among other things, the group wants a 135-day ceasefire, followed by a permanent ceasefire and a withdrawal of Israeli soldiers from the Gaza Strip. Israel’s head of government rejected this proposal. Tsur calls the demands “incomprehensible”.

Louis Har’s son-in-law, Idan Bejerano, thanked him for the rescue in the morning: “But the work is not over yet,” he told journalists near the hospital. Israel’s leaders would have to reach an agreement. “We will not stop until all the hostages are free,” said the 36-year-old. There are still around 130 abductees in Gaza, at least a fifth of whom are no longer alive, according to the army.

Meanwhile, concerns continue to grow about an Israeli offensive in Rafah, where around 1.5 million people are enduring under catastrophic conditions. Despite clear warnings from many aid organizations and allies, including Germany and the USA, the Israeli army said it continued its air strikes on the city of Rafah on Monday.

Biden-Netanyahu phone call

On Sunday evening, US President Joe Biden and Netanyahu spoke on the phone for the first time in more than three weeks. According to a high-ranking US representative, they discussed the possibility of an agreement on the release of the hostages and a ceasefire. Accordingly, there is a framework for an agreement, but there is still disagreement on numerous points. The United States is threatening not to support a Rafah offensive until Israel has a viable plan to protect and care for civilians.

On Tuesday, CIA chief William J. Burns is scheduled to travel to Cairo to negotiate a pause in fighting and a prisoner exchange with Egyptian and Qatari mediators. Israeli representatives are also expected to take part in the talks.


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