Police release fresh dramatic footage from the operation

‘No words to describe our joy’: Rescued hostages hail special forces who saved them

‘You called us diamonds, but you are the diamonds in the crown,’ says Louis Har, who was freed with Fernando Marman; relative says they never received meds, despite Qatar’s promise

Rescued hostages Norberto Louis Har, second from left, and Fernando Marman, second from right, appear in a recorded video thanking the troops who saved them in a special IDF operation in Rafah, February 13, 2024. (Screenshot/Channel 12, Used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)
Rescued hostages Norberto Louis Har, second from left, and Fernando Marman, second from right, appear in a recorded video thanking the troops who saved them in a special IDF operation in Rafah, February 13, 2024. (Screenshot/Channel 12, Used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)

The two hostages rescued in a daring overnight operation in Rafah on Monday expressed their profound gratitude to the special forces that worked to free them, in a recorded message from the hospital aired on Channel 12.

Fernando Marman, 61, and Louis Har, 70, were rescued in a complex overnight operation in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city.

They were being treated at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan and have been listed in stable condition.

Sitting alongside their spouses Tuesday, Har said in a message to his rescuers that he’s thankful for “every hug, every word you said to us… that wrapped us in affection and the feeling that we were home.”

“There are no words to describe the feelings of joy that you have brought us home to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We felt our nation in your hands,” he said.

“You called us diamonds, but you are the diamonds in the crown, a thousand thank yous,” Har said.

Louis Har (C) hugs a loved one as Fernando Marman looks on at Sheba Medical Center, February 12, 2024. (Screen capture)

Marman appeared to try to overcome emotion as he said, “I want to thank you. When I saw you, I felt the most safe in the world.”

On Tuesday, Maayan Sigal-Koren told Army Radio that Har, who is her mother’s partner, was sent a hearing aid, glasses and medication, but never received them, despite a Qatar-brokered deal that was supposed to see this happen.

Har has diabetes and hypertension for which he needs medication, among other conditions, according to the Hostage and Missing Families Forum, an advocacy group supporting the families of the hostages.

Sigal-Koren said the fact that Har didn’t have his meds compounded the challenges of captivity. “It added to other difficulties there, the psychological difficulties, the difficulty that his freedom was taken away,” she said.

The Qatar- and France-mediated deal was meant to provide a three-month supply of medications for 45 of the hostages. Qatar announced nearly a month ago that the medications had arrived in Gaza, but there was never any confirmation that they had reached the hostages.

Marman and Har’s long-planned rescue — only the second time that Israel has managed to successfully free captives by force since October 7 — came as a rare bright spot after four months of war that has seen troops sweep through a devastated Gaza, with international pressure growing daily for an end to the fighting.

The pair were both abducted from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak on the morning of October 7, among 253 hostages kidnapped, as thousands of Hamas-led terrorists from Gaza stormed through southern Israel, massacring some 1,200 people and carrying out other atrocities against mostly civilian victims.

Palestinians inspect the damage to residential buildings where two Israeli hostages were reportedly held before being rescued during an operation by Israeli security forces in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, February 12, 2024. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

“The diamonds are in our hands,” a member of the special forces could be heard calling over the radio in footage of the rescue released Monday.

The call came at 1:50 a.m., approximately one minute after members of the Shin Bet security agency and the police’s elite Yamam counterterrorism unit used explosives to breach a second-floor apartment where the pair were being held and killed three terrorists guarding them.

“The hostages are in our hands. There is gunfire against the force,” an officer can also be heard saying over the radio.

The Haaretz newspaper quoted a commander from Yamam as saying that the two hostages were taken out of the building using ropes to avoid detection on the street outside.

He said that the men were shocked at first by the explosions used to breach the apartment where they were being held, but “recovered quickly” and tried to aid their rescue as much as they could.

They were hustled into armored vehicles to a makeshift helipad deep inside Gaza, then transferred to a military helicopter that brought them to Sheba Medical Center, wrapping up the entire operation within an hour.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (L), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Maj. Gen. Avi Gil during the hostage rescue in southern Gaza’s Rafah, February 12, 2024 (Shin Bet)

Footage from one of the APCs shortly after the rescue showed Shayetet 13 commandos asking Marman and Har how they were.

“In shock,” one replied.

“Do you feel good?” an officer asked Har, who responded: “Excellent.”

The naval commandos gave the pair coats to wear before they headed out to the helipad. One of the soldiers also gave Har his own shoes, as Har was extracted barefoot, and could be seen tying the shoelaces for the former captive in the video.

The soldiers also offered water bottles to the pair and asked if they needed blankets for warmth, which they refused.

Police on Tuesday released even more dramatic footage from the operation — headcam video showing officers of the elite Yamam counterterrorism unit breaching into the building where Marman and Har were being held. The officers killed three Hamas terrorists guarding the pair and extracted the two hostages.


Har and Marman were taken hostage along with Clara Marman, 62, who is Marman’s sister and Har’s partner, their other sister Gabriela Leimberg, 59, and Gabriela’s daughter, Mia Leimberg, 17.

The women and teenager were freed on November 28 as part of the weeklong truce deal that secured the release of 105 of the 253 hostages taken on October 7.

Mia Leimberg gained particular attention after it emerged that she had had her pet dog Bella with her for the duration of her captivity.

Marman, his sister Gabriela and her daughter Mia were visiting the kibbutz for the Simhat Torah holiday weekend.

Louis Har (L) and Fernando Marman after their rescue, at Sheba Medical Center, February 12, 2024. (IDF Spokesperson)

The extended family of five was hiding in their safe room that morning, trying to keep the heavy door jammed shut with a chair. When the terrorists broke into the home and ordered them out of the room, they were sure they were about to be killed.

It is believed that 130 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — after 105 civilians were released from captivity during a weeklong truce in late November, and four hostages were released prior to that. Three hostages have been rescued by troops alive, including in Monday’s operation, and the bodies of 11 hostages have been recovered, including three mistakenly killed by the military.

The IDF has confirmed the deaths of 29 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza. One more person has been listed as missing since October 7, and their fate is still unknown.

Hamas is also holding two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are both thought to be alive after entering the Strip of their own accord in 2014 and 2015, respectively, as well as the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014.

AP contributed to this report

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