Israel announced on Monday that it had released two hostages in Rafah, the final target of its offensive in the Gaza Strip. This news brings hope to the families of those still held in Gaza. The ruling Hamas reported “around 100 Palestinian deaths” during this nighttime operation.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his army to prepare an offensive on Rafah, on the border with Egypt. The UN has reported that most of the population of the Palestinian territory is currently massed in Rafah, causing concern among the international community. Hamas warned that such an offensive would “torpedo” any agreement for the release of the hostages it still holds in Gaza.
Before the release of the last two hostages, Israel estimated that 132 were still detained in Gaza, of whom 29 were believed to have died. The two men were taken to the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan for initial medical examinations and are reported to be in a stable condition.
Israeli forces burst “with explosives” into a building in Rafah where these hostages were being held. There was a daring battle and fierce exchanges of fire during the rescue operation. Three terrorists were killed in the building, according to an initial report from the Israeli army.
Israel will provide “safe passage for the civilian population so that they can leave” the city, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. US President Joe Biden urged the Israeli Prime Minister to “guarantee the security” of the Palestinian population.
Rafah has become the last refuge for Palestinians stuck on the closed border with Egypt, numbering 1.4 million according to the UN, the vast majority displaced having fled the war which has been raging for four months. Several states have warned of a “humanitarian catastrophe” in the event of an assault on the overcrowded city.
The Hostage Families Forum congratulated the soldiers of the Israeli army who showed strength and bravery to obtain the release of two hostages, while Argentinian President Javier Milei expressed his “gratitude” to the Israeli army for its action. Victory is within reach,” Benjamin Netanyahu declared, calling Rafah the “last bastion” of Hamas.