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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - RAFAH — Two Israeli hostages were rescued overnight from the southern Gaza city of Rafah in a joint operation between the Israel Defense Forces, Israel Security Agency Shin Bet and the Israeli police.
The two rescued hostages have been identified as Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, who were taken by Hamas during the militant group's October 7 attack on Israel, according to the joint statement.
Their rescue comes 128 days after they were taken captive.
The two men are in good medical condition and have been transferred to Sheba Medical Center in Israel, the IDF said.
President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed a deal to secure the release of hostages in Gaza at length on Sunday, according to a senior administration official, who cautioned that while a framework is in place, gaps remain.
The call between Biden and Netanyahu lasted about 45 minutes and two thirds of the conversation was focused on the release of hostages, according to the senior administration official. US officials have been working on hammering out a framework that includes the release of hostages as well as a humanitarian pause.
“There are certainly gaps that need to be closed. Some of them are significant, but there has been real progress over the last few weeks, and we are now seeking to do all we possibly can to capitalize on it,” the senior administration official said.
During the call, Biden also expressed concerns about a ground offensive in Rafah, in southern Gaza, where more than 1.3 million people are believed to be living. The majority have been displaced from other parts of Gaza and say they have nowhere to go.
According to a White House readout, Biden "reaffirmed” his stance to Netanyahu that the Israeli military should not proceed with the military operation in the city “without a credible and executable plan” to ensure the safety of civilians.
“We have made very clear that an operation under current conditions is not something that we could envision,” the senior administration official said about the call between the two leaders.
Netanyahu said he thinks enough hostages are alive in Gaza to “warrant the kind of efforts” Israel is making to secure their release.
“I’m committed to getting them out, make every effort. And it requires pressure, pressure has worked, and pressure will work again,” Netanyahu told ABC News in an interview aired Sunday.
Netanyahu was asked about the Hostage and Missing Families Forum’s open letter that questioned Israel’s approach to ongoing negotiations with Hamas, and its commitment to securing the release of hostages.
“I’m not sure anybody can put themselves in the position of the families, but neither can the families put themselves of the decision-makers,” Netanyahu said. “These are two separate things. They reach our heart, they reach my heart, but I’m also responsible for the safety and the security of the people of Israel,” he added.
There are currently 136 hostages held in Gaza, according to the Israeli prime minister’s office. Of those, 132 are from the October 7 attack. It is believed 103 of those hostages are alive, with 29 reported dead.
Hamas holds a majority of the hostages, but some are believed to be held by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and possibly smaller groups or individuals in Gaza. — CNN
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