ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 147

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Praising hostages’ rescue, Israeli officials vow to ‘never give up’ until all are home

Netanyahu says ‘complete victory’ key to returning all captives, promises no opportunity will be missed; others laud daring operation as a welcome light during dark days

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

Congratulatory messages, statements of renewed hope and well-wishes poured in from Israeli officials on Monday morning after the daring overnight rescue of two hostages in Gaza.

Fernando Simon Marman, 61, and Norberto Louis Har, 70, were rescued in a complex overnight operation in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city, marking the second successful extraction of captives held by the terror group.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu echoed his recent promises of achieving “complete victory” in a short statement welcoming the rescue of the two men.

“Fernando and Louis – welcome back home. I salute our brave warriors for the bold action that led to their liberation,” he wrote. “Only the continuation of military pressure, until complete victory, will result in the release of all our abductees.”

“We will not miss any opportunity to bring them home,” he added.

Israel will “never give up” on the hostages, war cabinet minister Benny Gantz vowed as he welcomed the news of the successful rescue operation.

“We will never give up on them. The IDF, the Shin Bet and the police special forces acted precisely and courageously,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

“Along with the great joy at the return home of Fernando and Louis, there is great sadness at the fall of Sgt. First Class Adi Eldor and Sgt. First Class (res.) Alon Kleinman as they fought for us,” Gantz added, honoring two soldiers killed in other operations in Gaza yesterday. “We will not stop working to return all 134 abductees home. We remember, and we continue.”

Invoking medieval Jewish scholar Maimonides, President Isaac Herzog warmly welcomed the freed hostages, saying “there is no greater mitzvah than the redemption of captives.”

“I salute everyone who brought Fernando and Louis home in a daring rescue operation. We will continue to act in every way to return all the hostages to their homes,” Herzog added, echoing Gantz.

The growing despair felt by many Israelis as a hostage release deal has failed to come to fruition in recent weeks was noted by Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana who feted the “impressive, heroic and complex rescue operation” that freed the hostages.

“Finally good news,” he said, thanking security forces. “You’ve offered hope to an entire nation.”

A relative of Fernando Simon Marman and Louis Har, two Israeli hostages who were rescued overnight in a special operation from Gaza by Israeli forces, speaks to press at the Sheba Medical center in Ramat Gan where Marmar and Har are being taken care of. February 12, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/FLASH90)

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir set his sights on additional rescue operations down the line as he congratulated the Israeli special forces for their involvement in the “heroic operation.”

“This morning, we are all elated alongside the families whose loved ones have returned. We are hopeful that we will be able to return the rest of the abductees as well,” he wrote on X.

“This is a very touching and validating morning — the more we advance militarily, the more we will be able to return hostages home. This is the way to do it,” he added, referencing his opposition to making far-reaching concessions to Hamas for the release of the remaining hostages.

Smoke billows during strikes on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024 (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

Ben Gvir’s ultranationalist ally Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich echoed the same sentiment as he called for “victory over the Nazis in Hamas” in a combative social media post.

“We will continue to press on the neck of Hamas until victory and until its destruction. Only this way will we bring more and more of our people home and only this way will we restore security to all the citizens of Israel,” he wrote.

“Louis and Fernando, welcome back, we’ve been waiting for you! Let’s hear more good news like this!” he added.

Across the political aisle, Opposition Leader Yair Lapid, who has been a vocal advocate for a second hostage release deal, welcomed the return of the two men, noting that “the mission to return the abductees is a national mission, and we need to act in all arenas until everyone returns home.”

“It is a morning with a little light, amidst the pain and difficulty,” the Yesh Atid leader added.

Geffen, the niece of Fernando Simon Marman and Louis Har, two Israeli hostages who were rescued overnight in a special operation from Gaza by Israeli forces, speaks to press at the Sheba Medical center in Ramat Gan where Marmar and Har are being taken care of. February 12, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/FLASH90)

Praising the rescue of Marman and Har as “a moment of excitement and pride,” Labor leader Merav Michaeli reiterated her support for a deal that could see the return of all the hostages.

“There are 134 more abductees. Via an operation or a deal, we won’t rest until we bring them all home,” she said.

A military helicopter arrives at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan with two hostages rescued from Gaza in a military operation, February 12, 2024 (IDF)

It is believed that 130 hostages abducted by Hamas during the October 7 terror onslaught remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — after the rescue of Marman and Har.

One hundred and five civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November, and four hostages were released prior to that.

The only other successful rescue operation was carried out in late October and brought about the return of Pvt. Ori Megidish. The bodies of 11 hostages have also 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 the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014, as well as 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.

Indicating the urgency felt by the families of those still held in Gaza, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum welcomed the rescue operation and called for the government to “exhaust every option” for the release of the other 134 people.

Israelis rally to demand securing the release of hostages held by terrorists in the Gaza Strip, in Tel Aviv, February 3, 2024. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“We commend the IDF soldiers who demonstrated strength and bravery to secure the release of the two hostages, and wish them all to return home safely and speedily,” the forum said in a statement.

“Time is running out for the remaining hostages held captive by Hamas. Their lives are at risk with each passing moment. The Israeli government must exhaust every option on the table to release them,” the statement added.

Sending well-wishes from abroad, Argentine President Javier Milei welcomed the return of the two men, both of whom immigrated to Israel from Argentina.

“The Office of the President thanks the Israel Defense Forces, the Shin Bet and the Israel Police for having successfully completed the rescue of the Argentines Fernando Simon Marman and Louis Har,” the presidency said in a post on X.

“During his visit to the State of Israel, President Javier Milei reiterated to President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the request for the release of each of the Argentine hostages, and continues to maintain his condemnation of Hamas terrorism firmly.”

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