TWO hostages rescued by Israeli forces were finally reunited with their families today after 128 days in Hamas captivity.
IDF spokesperson Colonel Peter Lerner spoke to The Sun about the bold overnight mission carried out by troops on Sunday to set the men free.
Lerner explained that the operation saw special units work under immense pressure as they were fired at “heavily from all directions”.
The IDF Colonel told The Sun that both Fernando Simon Marman, 61, and Norberto Louis Har, 70, are in relatively good health following the rescue.
He said: “We evacuated them to buy a helicopter to hospital to the Telesomer Sheba Hospital just outside of Tel Aviv, and they’re undergoing a further examination.
“But it’s looking promising this morning. I think it’s a good way to start the day after 4 months of war.
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“But we need to remember that there are still 134 Israelis being held captive by Hamas.”
The pair were rescued from Rafah – a southern city in the Gaza Strip – during the early hours of Monday.
A heavy barrage of airstrikes pummelled the area surrounding the flat – as Hamas fired at Israeli troops and they shot back, claiming to have killed members of the terror group during the raid.
IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari claimed that the rescue team shielded Marman and Har with their own bodies during the intense fighting.
Lerner told The Sun that the pair were being held by Hamas in “a home… on the second story of the building”.
He added: “What we’ve seen time and time again, is that Hamas has no regard for civilian life.”
Special forces from different units including police and security services were scrambled for the overnight raid.
They then poured into the residential area of Rafah to extrace Marman and Har at around 2am local time on Monday.
Today heartwarming footage of the two men reunited with their loved ones after more than four months apart was released online.
The pair could be seen turned a corner in an Israel hospital before tightly embracing their families and welling up.
At one point Simon Marman tightly hugged a woman, possibly his wife, for several long moments and closed his eyes tightly as the pair reunited.
Countless loved ones, doctors and nurses surrounded the families as they expressed their relief at being back together after so long apart.
Marman’s sister and Har’s partner, Clara Marman, was also taken hostage.
But Clara was released during the November ceasefire along with their other sister Gabriela and her daughter Mia.
When asked about the widespread criticism Israel has faced for unleashing fire in an area where almost 1.5 million Palestinians are sheltering, Lerner said the army’s goal is to obliterate Hamas.
“We need to minimize the impact, operate in accordance to the laws of armed conflict.
“But at the end of the day achieve our goals of bringing home the hostages, every last one of them, and making sure that Hamas, who can’t be trusted with power, never has the power of governing the Gaza strip. Again.”
He said there have been no attempts to evacuate civilians from the area.
The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry claims at least 67 Palestinians were killed in the strikes overnight as part of Israel’s rescue operation.
And the Israeli operation in Rafah – Netanyahu’s attempt to crush the “last bastion” of Hamas – has been met with widespread international backlash.
But the Israeli PM insisted that the “final terrorist holdout” is an essential part of the four-month-old battle against Hamas.
Dozens of people, including children, have already been killed as a result of strikes on the city.
Biden, Netanyahu’s biggest ally since the war began, even urged caution over the move.
And Egypt has threatened to suspend its peace treaty with Israel entirely if ground troops are sent in.
Lerner argued that Rafah – which until recently had been left as a place where Israel told Palestinians they could shelter – had become a kind of bolthole for Hamas terrorists.
He insisted that the IDF would do absolutely everything in their power to destroy the group and bring the hostages home, even if that meant going into Rafah.
Lerner doubled down, adding: “They [Hamas] need to be sought out. They need to be eradicated, they need to be crushed, and the Israelis, the hostages need to be brought home.”
The IDF expert did reveal that almost 20 of Hamas’ strongholds have been destroyed.
“We have dismantled and destroyed 18 of Hamas’s battalions. There are probably around 4 remaining in different locations in the Gaza strip.”
Netanyahu said on Monday morning: “Fernando and Luis – welcome home. I salute our brave warriors for the bold action that led to their liberation.”
Both men are Argentinian citizens who also have Israeli citizenship – they were snatched by Hamas on October 7 from a Kibbutz.
When Hamas attacked Israel last year, they killed around 1,200 people and kidnapped 250 others.
Over 100 of those hostages were freed during the only brief ceasefire in November, and Israel says over 130 remain in captivity.
Some of the remaining hostages are thought to be dead – either killed by Hamas or by Israeli strikes in Gaza.
Three were tragically killed by Israel’s own soldiers after escaping Hamas terrorists in December.