In a operation on Monday, Israeli Special Forces consisting of Shin Bet special operations unit, the Israeli police counterterrorism unit and Shayetet 13 conducted a raid in the Rafah neighborhood of the Gaza Strip, successfully rescuing two hostages, Fernando Merman and Louis Herr. The hostages, who had been kidnapped by Hamas from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak on October 7, were subsequently transported to Sheba Hospital in central Israel and reported to be in good condition.
The operation to rescue Merman and Herr began around 1:00 a.m., initiated by a series of airstrikes against the Hamas-controlled Shabura battalion in Rafah. These strikes were part of a strategy to distract and disorient Hamas forces from the rescue mission. The hostages were located in a building heavily guarded by Hamas militants, with one Israeli soldier sustaining light injuries during the mission.
Concurrent with the rescue operation, the IDF announced it had completed a series of strikes in the Rafah area, targeting terrorist infrastructure. These strikes were reported to have resulted in significant Palestinian casualties, with the Gaza Ministry of Health claiming at least 52 people killed. Palestinian sources indicated that the strikes affected residential areas, including houses and mosques.
The military activities in Rafah drew international attention, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussing the operation with US President Joe Biden, With Biden highlighting concerns regarding the safety of civilians in the area. Additionally, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly opposed the Israeli military’s actions in Rafah, citing potential exacerbations of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.