After Israeli commandos managed to free two hostages, Fernando Simon Marman (60), and Norberto Luis Har (70) in a heroic raid deep inside the Gaza Strip, their families and Israeli leaders celebrated their return home after 129 days of captivity.
“Fernando and Louis, welcome home,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated on Monday morning.
“I salute our brave fighters for the daring action that led to their release. Only continued military pressure, until total victory, will bring about the release of all of our hostages. We will not miss any opportunity to bring them home,” he added.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant praised the “impressive” operation, stressing his “full appreciation to the IDF, Shin Bet, and IDF troops for an important operation and quality execution.”
“We will continue to realize our commitment to return the hostages, in any way,” Gallant vowed.
“We will never give them up,” War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz said. “Along with the great joy at the return home of Fernando and Luis, there is great sadness at the fall of Adi Eldor and Alon Kleinman in the battle for our home.”
The IDF announced the death of two soldiers, Eldor and Kleinmann, during the fighting in Khan Younis on Monday morning, raising the IDF death toll from ground operations in Gaza to 229.
After their rescue, Marman and Har were taken to Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer for examinations. They were in good condition, according to the IDF, and were able to reunite with their families at the hospital.
“I see that they are fine, they are still slowly digesting what happened to them in the last four months,” Marman's niece, Gefen Sigal-Ilan, told Ynet News.
“They came back pale and thin, they haven’t seen sunlight for four months and it shows. They both really like good food, so little by little they will get back to enjoying it.”
Idan, the son-in-law of Louis, said that the two Argentinian-born Israelis were already making plans to hold a traditional Argentinian Asado grill party.
Marman and Har are brothers-in-law and were both kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak on Oct. 7, when Hamas terrorists stormed the border into Israel, slaughtering at least 1,200 and abducting at least 240 into Gaza.
Sigal-Ilan told KAN 11 News about the exciting moment when she was told about the rescue.
“I got a call from my sister, and I answered the call and she says, ‘Gefen, Nano and Luis are back,' we have to go to the hospital.’ It was a long drive, and we saw that they were fine, we hugged them. It’s unbelievable. I thank everyone who invested and did everything to free them.”
“They were aware of what was happening in the country on October 7, there was a non-stop psychological war against them. Fernando told me that he was told that everyone [in Israel] is back to normal and they are not looking for them. But to each other, they said, ‘Don’t believe it.’ They strengthened each other,” Sigal-Ilan said.
Clara Marman, the partner of Luis Har and sister of Fernando Marman, was kidnapped together with them and they were held in a tunnel together until she was released as part of the hostage deal last November.
“It wasn’t easy for me, I felt at every moment that this is it, I can’t do it anymore, but Louis encouraged me and said, ‘Yes, you can and you will.’ It helped a lot,” she said.
Along with Clara, Luis and Fernando, Clara’s sister, Gabriela, and Gabriela’s daughter, Mia Leimberg, were also held captive.
“It was very, very difficult for us,” Clara continued. “Luis is the father of four children and the grandfather of ten grandchildren. I asked him what to tell the family, and he said, ‘Wait for me in the green gardens, tell them that I love them very much and that we will see each other soon and hug.’ Then we hugged and parted.”
According to relatives of Fernando and Luis, they were held by a family in Rafah at the time of their rescue. When they were asked if they were Jewish, they replied that they were Argentinian, leading to conversations about soccer.
They received “some kind of medicine” during their captivity, the relatives said, after Israel's demands led to the transfer of medicines for the hostages, facilitated by Qatar and France.
Naama Bachar, a member of Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak, told Ynet that the community’s WhatsApp group was filled with emotional messages this morning.
“The joy is very great, along with mixed emotions, because there are three more from the kibbutz who are still kidnapped. Two more were killed, and they want to bring them for burial.”
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The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.