Israeli forces successfully rescued two Israeli hostages held in the Gaza city of Rafah, officials announced early Monday.
In a joint operation conducted overnight by the Israeli Defense Forces, Israeli Securities Authority and Israeli police rescued Fernando Merman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, and evacuated them in a helicopter to the Sheba Tel Hashomer hospital inside Israel. Both are said to be in good medical condition.
Merman and Har were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists from the Nir Yitzhak kibbutz on Oct. 7, the day Hamas launched its attack against Israel.
Security forces said they will continue to work toward returning the hostages home.
Forces from the IDF Navy SEALs, the Shin Bet special operations unit and the Israeli police counterterrorism unit arrived at a building in Rafah to carry out the rescue operation, according to the IDF. The operation took place at around 1 a.m. local time.
An IDF spokesperson told reporters in a briefing that the forces managed to covertly reach the building and enter the second floor before blowing up the door of the apartment with an explosive and killing the three militants holding the two hostages.
The IDF and Shin Bet had been working on the operation for several weeks based on intelligence, an IDF official told Axios. The Israeli Air Force conducted heavy strikes in Rafah as a diversion to allow the rescue.
The Ministry of Health in Hamas-run Gaza said dozens of Palestinians were killed in the bombardment, Al Jazeera reported.
Israeli officials notified the Biden administration of the operation following its completion, according to Axios.
As of Monday, 134 of the more than 240 hostages abducted on Oct. 7 remain in Gaza. More than 100 were freed as part of a hostage deal in November. This includes Har’s wife, who is also Merman’s sister, and Merman’s other sister and niece.
Qatar and Egypt have been attempting to mediate a new hostage deal, but Israel and Hamas have yet to reach an agreement.
President Biden warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday against expanding the ground operation in Gaza without a plan for evacuating Palestinian civilians.