Back in our loving arms: Hostages freed in IDF raid are embraced by their families as it’s revealed Israeli soldiers used their own bodies as humans shields to protect them during gun battle with Hamas

The two men rescued by IDF soldiers who used their own bodies as human shields during a battle with Hamas in Rafah, Gaza’s last remaining city, were pictured today for the first time in months hugging their families.

The Israeli military said it has rescued two male hostages from captivity in the Gaza Strip – 128 days after they were kidnapped.

The two men were rescued from a residential building in the border town of Rafah during a raid that killed at least seven people.

The army identified the two men, both Argentine-Israeli, as Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, and said both were in good medical condition.

Both men were kidnapped by Hamas militants from Kibbutz Nir Yizhak in the October 7 cross-border raid that started the Israel-Hamas war. They were seen today being hugged by their families, who they have not seen for four months.

This morning, IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari gave details of the raid that saved the hostages’ lives, which saw counter-terrorism police use their own bodies as human shields.

The flat in which the men were held was broken into at 01:50 today

The flat in which the men were held was broken into at 01:50 today

Officers from the police's Yamam unit, known for its counter-terrorism operations, broke into an apartment in Rafah where the two men were being held at 01:49.

Officers from the police’s Yamam unit, known for its counter-terrorism operations, broke into an apartment in Rafah where the two men were being held at 01:49.

The army identified the two men, both Argentine-Israeli, as Fernando Simon Marman (60) and Louis Har (70).

The army identified the two men, both Argentine-Israeli, as Fernando Simon Marman (60) and Louis Har (70).

Both men were kidnapped by Hamas militants from Kibbutz Nir Yizhak in the October 7 cross-border attack

Both men were kidnapped by Hamas militants from Kibbutz Nir Yizhak in the October 7 cross-border attack

Smoke billows during Israeli bombardment over Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip

Smoke billows during Israeli bombardment over Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip

‘We brought Louis and Fernando back overnight. It was a complex rescue operation under fire based on sensitive intelligence. A professional and accurate operation,’ said Hagari.

‘This is an operation for which we have been preparing and waiting for the conditions that would make it possible to carry it out.’

Hagari said that officers from the police’s Yamam unit, known for its counter-terrorism operations, broke into an apartment in Rafah where the two men were being held at 1:49am.

“The troops pulled Louis and Fernando out of the apartment and rescued them under fire until they reached the safe zone,” Hagari said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined Israel’s military chief and other top officials as the raid unfolded.

The hostages were held on the second floor of a building that was breached with explosives during the raid, which sparked a fierce exchange of gunfire.

Fernando Simon Marman

Louis Har

The military identified the two men as Fernando Simon Marman, left, and Louis Har, right, and said both were in good medical condition

In this photo provided by the Israeli military, an Israeli Air Force helicopter is shown transporting the two hostages

In this photo provided by the Israeli military, an Israeli Air Force helicopter is shown transporting the two hostages

Palestinians walk past a residential building destroyed in an Israeli attack in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Sunday, February 11, 2024

Palestinians walk past a residential building destroyed in an Israeli attack in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Sunday, February 11, 2024

‘It was a very tense and very moving evening. Such an operation was made possible thanks to the great sacrifice of the standing army and reserve troops who fell and were injured in the battles. Without their sacrifice, we would not have reached this moment,” said Hagari.

The raid that rescued the Argentine-Israeli hostages came as Argentina’s president, Javier Milei, visited the nation. Milei was seen crying when he visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

At the same time, an airstrike was carried out to make the forces withdraw, he said.

The airstrikes caused widespread panic in Rafah as many people were sleeping when the attacks began, said residents contacted by Reuters.

Israeli planes, tanks and ships took part in the strikes, with two mosques and several houses hit, according to residents.

The Israeli army said on Monday it had carried out a “series of attacks” on southern Gaza that had now “ended”, without providing further details.

Before previous attacks on Gaza cities, Israel’s military ordered civilians to leave without preparing any specific evacuation plan.

President Biden told Netanyahu on Sunday that Israel should not launch a military operation in Rafah without a credible plan to ensure the safety of the roughly 1 million people sheltering there, the White House said.

Smoke billows during Israeli bombardment over Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024

Smoke billows during Israeli bombardment over Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024

Joe Biden called on Israel 'not to proceed' with military action in southern Gaza without planning for the evacuation of Palestinian civilians

Joe Biden called on Israel ‘not to proceed’ with military action in southern Gaza without planning for the evacuation of Palestinian civilians

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces mounting international warnings over his army's planned offensive in Rafah amid its war with Hamas

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces mounting international warnings over his army’s planned offensive in Rafah amid its war with Hamas

Aid agencies say an attack on Rafah would be catastrophic. It is the last relatively safe place in an enclave devastated by Israel’s military offensive.

Biden and Netanyahu spoke for about 45 minutes, days after the US leader said Israel’s military response in the Gaza Strip was “over the top”.

Netanyahu’s office said it had ordered the military to develop a plan to evacuate Rafah and destroy four Hamas battalions it said were deployed there.

Hamas militants killed an estimated 1,200 people and kidnapped 250 others in the Oct. 7 raid that sparked the war.

According to local health officials, an Israeli air and ground offensive has killed more than 28,000 Palestinians.

More than 100 hostages were released during a ceasefire in November. Israel says about 100 hostages remain in Hamas captivity.

Netanyahu said in an interview on Sunday that “enough” of the 132 remaining Israeli hostages held in Gaza are alive to justify Israel’s war in the region.

Hamas-run Aqsa Television quoted a senior Hamas leader as saying on Sunday that any Israeli ground offensive in Rafah would “blow up” negotiations on the hostage exchange.

Egypt warned on Sunday of “terrible consequences” of a potential Israeli military attack on Rafah, which lies close to its border.

“Egypt called for the need to unite all international and regional efforts to prevent the targeting of the Palestinian city of Rafah,” its foreign ministry added in a statement.