Israel frees two hostages in Rafah under cover of air strikes

Israel freed two Israeli-Argentinian hostages in Rafah on Monday under the cover of airstrikes which local health officials said killed 67 Palestinians and wounded dozens in the southern Gaza city.

A joint operation by the Israeli military, the domestic Shin Bet security service and the Special Police Unit in Rafah freed Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Hare, 70, the military said.

The two men were kidnapped by Hamas on October 7, the military said, among some 250 people who Israel says were seized during the militant raid that triggered its war on Gaza.

"We've been working a long time on this operation," Israeli military spokesman Lt Col. Richard Hecht said. "We were waiting for the right conditions."

The hostages were being held on the second floor of a building that was breached with explosives during the raid, which saw heavy exchanges of gunfire with surrounding buildings, Hecht said. A photograph released to media showed them in hospital, sitting on a sofa alongside relatives.

The Argentinian government thanked Israel for the rescue of the two men, who it said were dual nationals of Argentina.

Israel's military said its air strikes had coincided with the raid to allow its forces to be extracted.

The Gaza health ministry said 67 people had been killed and the number could rise as rescue operations were under way. A photograph from the scene showed a vast area of rubble where buildings had been destroyed.

Hamas said the attack on Rafah was a continuation of a "genocidal war" and forced displacement attempts Israel has waged against the Palestinian people.

Hamas killed 1,200 people in southern Israel and abducted at least 250 in their October 7 incursion, according to Israeli tallies. Israel has responded with a military assault on the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 28,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in the enclave.

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