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Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70. (Image: Palestine Chronicle)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

When two Israeli captives were freed on February 12, triumphant Netanyahu declared that his genocide in Gaza is paying dividends. But is Israel telling the truth?

On February 12, the Israeli army claimed that it had managed to free two of its captives in Gaza, and that the two, Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, were in good health. 

“Following an airstrike, at 1:49 a.m. (local time) the special forces broke into a building in the heart of Rafah, and found Merman and Har on the second floor being guarded by armed terrorists,” the Israeli army said in a statement.

“Two Israeli-Argentinian men (…) were rescued on Monday in an early morning raid in which the Israeli military carried out airstrikes that (…) killed around 100 people in the southern Gaza city of Rafah”, CNN reported on February 12.

But quickly, the Israeli version of the event was challenged by those who highlighted inconsistencies in the Israeli story and the implausibility of freeing two captives at a time when the best of Israel’s elite units could not save a single Israeli alive over the course of 129 of war.

The Israeli account was also challenged over the claim that the captives were freed particularly in Rafah on the specific day that Israel claimed that an operation had taken place. 

For many days, Israel has been building a new narrative where Rafah is the epicenter of Palestinian Resistance, a repeat of earlier narratives pertaining to northern and central Gaza, and finally, the city of Khan Yunis, in the south. 

Al-Mayadeen Arabic news network reported on the matter, finally providing a cohesive account of what took place on that day. 

This is the Al-Mayadeen version. 

What Happened

Al-Mayadeen, through its own sources in Gaza, reported that the Israeli story of an event that has taken place on February 12 is largely false, and that neither a multi-layered courageous rescue operation nor anything of the sort has taken place. So what happened?

When Israeli defenses collapsed, along with Israel’s military bases, members of the Palestinian Resistance arrested a number of Israeli soldiers and military men, Al-Mayadeen reported. 

However, members of clans and civilians groups took advantage of the chaos that ensued and entered the Gaza envelope region, detaining a number of Israeli settlers, which included civilians, children and the elderly. 

“The Palestinian Resistance could not immediately control and assess the situation, because of the around-the-clock Israeli aerial bombardment in Gaza,” Al-Mayadeen said, adding, 

“Within this context, a number of individuals, belonging to a well-known family in Rafah, detained Fernando Simon Merman, 60, and Luis Har (70), the very two captives that the Israeli army has claimed to have rescued.”

The group took Merman and Har to Rafah and placed them in a house. The leader of the group entrusted the two detainees to his brother and two of his cousins to guard them, provide them with food and medicine, with the hope of exchanging them with Palestinian prisoners. 

The mission also involved the removal of the two hostages from one home to the other. Then, the leader of the group was killed in the vicinity of Khan Yunis, sometime in early January. This means that the three individuals were in charge of Merman and Har. 

The difficulty arose from the fact that the three Palestinians did not belong to any political faction, and that, from that moment on, they were making individual decisions, without fully being able to grasp the political or security sensitivity of the matter. 

After a series of decisions, the two Israelis ended in a Palestinian home in the Shabboura area in Rafah.

“Due to the familial structure of the matter, the simplicity of the individuals involved, and their lack of connection to any political group, one of the two captives, Luis Har, managed to infiltrate the group, enticing the three with promises of helping them leave Gaza to anywhere in the world,” a source told Al-Mayadeen. 

Har involved his daughter, who became a regular caller, claiming to run a large company, which is capable of taking the three to Europe. 

Al-Mayadeen also said that initial amounts of money were, in fact, delivered to relatives of the three Rafah residents in the UK and Sweden. 

The initial plan, as suggested by the daughter, was for the three Gazans to take the two captives and cross the border into Israel. The suggestion was rejected by the family, which finally agreed that they would release the two captives in exchange for an agreed-upon amount of money before being transported to Egypt, and from there, to some European country.

Little did the three know that the Israeli intelligence was orchestrating the entire operation, and that the alleged daughter was acting upon precise intelligence information. 

The Final Plan

According to Al-Mayadeen, the final plan reached between the two sides was for the two captives to be transported to a certain point in the Gaza envelope, far away from the prisons of the Israeli army. 

One of the three was entrusted with the mission of reaching the ‘daughter’ to receive the money before calling the two others to let them know that they can safely release the two captives. 

Three different dates for the exchange were agreed upon before being abruptly canceled by the alleged daughter, who claimed that the cancellation was the result of security concerns. 

Finally, February 12 was agreed to be the date. 

Chances are the delay was related to the Israeli military’s need to fully familiarize itself with the area, and to ensure that the bombardment from the air would prevent the Resistance from thwarting the operation. 

Hours before the operation began, Israel carried out one of the bloodiest strikes on Rafah, killing over 100 Palestinians and wounding hundreds more. 

At the end, it was the simple mission of climbing up the stairs of the house, taking the two captives along with the two young men, who seemed unarmed and unprepared. 

Al-Mayadeen also reported, citing sources in Gaza, that the third young man, who was on his way to meet the supposed ‘daughter’ of the captive, was either arrested or executed. 

“This event completely negates allegations by the Israeli occupation military that its forces have ‘secretly’ reached the building where the two were held, and that ‘fierce clashes took place with armed men inside a residential flat and other flats in that area during a military operation’.”

Due to their repeated failure to achieve any military or strategic objective in Gaza, the Israeli government and military have exaggerated the details of what they painted to be a heroic operation, insisting that it is proof that only a military solution is possible to freeing the rest of the captives.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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