Relatives of two hostages rescued overnight from Gaza appealed Monday for a broader deal between Israel and Hamas to secure the release of other captives still held in the Palestinian territory.
An Israeli special forces raid in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah freed Louis Har, 70, and Fernando Simon Marman, 60, while around 100 Palestinians were killed in accompanying air strikes, according to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.
Speaking from an Israeli hospital where the two were undergoing medical tests, Har’s son-in-law described “a lot of tears, hugs, not many words” when the family was reunited.
“Luckily for us, as a family, they were saved tonight. But I must say that the job is not done,” Idan Bejerano told journalists at Sheba hospital near Tel Aviv.
“We are happy today, but we didn’t win. It’s just another step towards bringing all the other” hostages home, he continued.
Marman’s niece, Gefen Sigal Ilan, said she was still “shaking” from the news of her uncle’s rescue.
“When I saw him I couldn’t believe he was real,” she told AFP.
She said the families of hostages will keep fighting for the release of other captives.
“I want to say we will not stop until all hostages are free… We will fight for their freedom,” said Ilan, 36.
Talks have been under way for weeks to secure a second truce in the four-month war, which would see more hostages freed in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to press on with the fight into Rafah, sparking international alarm for the 1.4 million Palestinians taking refuge there.
One Hamas leader told AFP such a move by Israeli forces would “torpedo” ceasefire negotiations.
A week-long truce in November secured the release of more than 100 Gaza hostages, in exchange for 240 Palestinians held in Israel.
Among those who had been released as part of that deal was Clara Marman, the partner of Louis Har and sister of Fernando Marman, as well as her sister Gabriela Leimberg and her 17-year-old daughter Mia Leimberg, according to the Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum campaign group.
Speaking hours after his Israeli-Argentinian relative was freed, Bejerano urged leaders to “be serious and strike a deal”.
“The Israeli people need the deal done. Not yesterday, not tomorrow, today. We want it done as soon as possible,” he said.
The Hostages and Missing Families Forum also stepped up pressure on Israeli authorities to bring home the remaining captives.
“Time is running out for the remaining hostages held captive by Hamas,” it said in a statement.
“Their lives are at risk with each passing moment. The Israeli government must exhaust every option on the table to release them.”
Arnon Afek, director of Sheba hospital, said medical checks were being done on the two hostages.
“They are not young. We are checking them now. The time they will stay depends on their (medical) results,” he told AFP.
“There are not only physical issues but also psychological issues. It is not a simple situation.”
The attack resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.
Israel has responded with a relentless offensive in Gaza that the territory’s health ministry said on Monday had killed at least 28,340 people, mostly women and children.