Israel says two hostages freed in Rafah as strikes reported

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Flares over the Gazan city of Rafah at nightImage source, Reuters

Israel says two Israeli hostages have been rescued in a raid in Rafah, amid reports of “violent” Israeli air strikes on the southern Gazan city.

The Israel Defense Forces (ID) says the freed hostages are in “good medical condition”, and they have been taken to hospital for medical tests.

Earlier, the Palestine Red Crescent Society said Rafah was under attack, with a number of deaths reported.

Israel said it had conducted strikes in southern Gaza, providing no details.

In a statement on social media, the IDF said that during an overnight “joint operation between the IDF, ISA [Israel Security Agency or Shin Bet], and Israel Police, two Israeli hostages from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak were rescued: Fernando Simon Marman (60) and Louis Har (70)”.

Israeli officials did no give any details of the operation, but Defence Minister Yoav Gallant described it as “impressive”.

He added: “We will continue to fulfil our commitment to return the abducted, in any way.”

Israel’s military launched its operations in the Gaza Strip after more than 1,200 people were killed in southern Israel on 7 October by Hamas gunmen, who also took about 240 people hostage.

On Sunday, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said 112 more Palestinians had been killed by the Israeli military over the previous day, bringing the overall death toll to more than 28,100 and more than 67,500 injured.

Monday’s reported Israeli rescue raid in Rafah comes shortly after witnesses in the city spoke of dozens of Israeli air strikes on the city’s north and centre.

The international community has warned Israel against conducting its planned offensive in the city, where 1.5 million people are sheltering. Most of them have fled from the rest of Gaza.

A senior UN humanitarian official has told the BBC that there is nowhere safe for them to go now.

On Sunday, US President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that a Rafah offensive should not happen without measures to ensure the safety of civilians.

Mr Biden said Israel needed a “credible and executable plan” to protect the more than a million people in the city, according to the White House.

Mr Netanyahu has insisted it will go ahead and a plan is being prepared.

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