Relatives of two Israeli hostages freed overnight from Gaza appealed Monday for a broader deal between Israel and Hamas to secure the release of others still held in the Palestinian territory.
An IDF special forces raid in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah saw Louis Har, 70, and Fernando Marman, 60, liberated.
Speaking from Sheba hospital near Tel Aviv, where the rescued hostages were undergoing medical checks, Har’s son-in-law described “a lot of tears, hugs, not many words” when the family was reunited.
“Luckily for us, as a family, they were saved tonight. But I must say that the job is not done,” Idan Bejerano told journalists.
“We are happy today, but we didn’t win. It’s just another step towards bringing all the other” hostages home, he continued.
The Prime Minister’s Office released footage of Har and Marman reuniting with their families in the hospital. In the video, the two rescued hostages could be seen tearfully embracing their relatives who had come to meet them.
Marman’s niece Gefen Sigal Ilan said she was still “shaking” from the news of her uncle’s rescue. “When I saw him I couldn’t believe he was real,” she told AFP.
She said the families of hostages will keep fighting for the release of other captives.
“I want to say we will not stop until all hostages are free… We will fight for their freedom,” said Ilan, 36.
Talks have been underway for weeks to secure a second truce in the four-month war, which would see more hostages freed in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to press on with the military campaign with the next target being Rafah, sparking international alarm for the 1.4 million Palestinians taking refuge there.
One Hamas leader told AFP such a move by Israeli forces would “torpedo” the truce negotiations.
The war began on October 7 after Hamas-led terrorists launched an unprecedented attack on Israel, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking 253 hostages.
A weeklong truce in November secured the release of 105 of the hostages, mostly women and children, in exchange for 240 Palestinian women and minors being released from Israeli prisons.
With the rescue of Marman and Har, it is believed that 130 of the October 7 hostages remain in Gaza, though not all of them are alive. Four hostages were released prior to the November hostage deal, and one was rescued by troops. The bodies of eight hostages have also been recovered and three hostages were mistakenly killed by the military. One more person has been listed as missing since October 7, and their fate is still unknown.
Among those who had been released as part of the deal in November was Clara Marman, the partner of Louis Har and sister of Fernando Marman, as well as her sister Gabriela Leimberg and her 17-year-old daughter Mia Leimberg.
Speaking hours after his Israeli-Argentinian relative was freed, Bejerano urged leaders to “be serious and strike a deal.”
“The Israeli people need the deal done. Not yesterday, not tomorrow, today. We want it done as soon as possible,” he said.
The Hostages and Missing Families Forum commended the troops who rescued Marman and Har but also stepped up pressure on the government to bring home the remaining captives.
“Time is running out for the remaining hostages held captive by Hamas,” it said in a statement. “Their lives are at risk with each passing moment. The Israeli government must exhaust every option on the table to release them.”
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid echoed the sentiment, praising the army for bringing the hostages home and adding that “the mission to get the hostages back is a national mission, and we must work on all fronts until they all come home.”
“Fernando and Louis – welcome back home. I salute our brave warriors for the bold action that led to their liberation,” Netanyahu wrote in a short statement welcoming the rescue of the two men. “Only the continuation of military pressure, until complete victory, will result in the release of all our abductees.”
Around 100 Palestinians were killed in airstrikes that accompanied the operation, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza claimed. The figure cannot be verified.