Fernando Simon Marman and LuisHar were rescued from captivity in Gaza overnight after being held hostage for the past 129 days. Upon their return in what appears to be good condition considering their long days of incarceration, they said they were held by a Rafah family.
Israeli special forces entered the second floor of the building amid a gunfight with a large number of terrorists, and with the cover of airstrikes, and were able to extract them to safety.
Their relatives said that they had cooked for the family that had held them. The terrorists asked them whether they were Jews and they responded that they were Argentinian, which prompted conversations about soccer.
The relatives said that the two had been given "some kind of medicine" recently, perhaps after Israel demanded that medications be delivered to the hostages. The freed men lost much of their body weight and lived mostly on pita bread and white cheese. "We were hungry for days," they said. They were not beaten but returned "very weak."
In recent weeks the men were kept in the same location in Rafah. They were asleep when the Israeli forces entered and, until they realized that they were in the hands of Israelis, were sure they were going to die, the family said. They said their extraction came as a complete surprise.
The men had not seen news for the entire time they were held hostage, except for one time when they were able to watch a broadcast on Al Jazeera, but were aware of the dates. Luis for example, remembered each of his children and grandchildren's birthdays. He will be celebrating his 71st birthday at the end of the month.
"I see that they are fine. Slowly coming to terms with what had happened to them in the past four months," Fernando's niece Gefen Sigal Ilan told Ynet, and thanked the security forces for their heroism. "They came back pale and thin. They had not seen sunlight in four months, and it is evident. Both really love good food so, in time, they will enjoy it again."
The rescued hostages were reunited with their family members at Sheba Hospital on Monday morning.
Idan Bejerano, Luis' son-in-law said the two are already planning to throw some meat on the coals as Argentinians do.
Clara Marman, who was freed in November in the hostage exchange deal, said at the time of her release that when she said goodbye to her partner Luis and his brother Fernando, she too was in Rafah, "quite close to Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak." She said that she had been with them in a tunnel until she was taken away to be released.
"We walked until we saw a light at the end of the tunnel, truly. There was a 40-meter-long ladder with its steps about 50 centimeters apart," she said. "It was not easy for me and I felt I could not go on anymore, but Luis encouraged me and said I can do it, which helped. When we came out of the tunnel there was a taxi waiting and we all piled into it and were taken to a house."
Clara's sister Gabriela Leimberg, and her daughter, Mia, were also held with them, along with Mia's little dog. While the three women were freed in November, the men were left behind after all of them were taken from their safe room in Nir Yitzhak. "They said we were a package deal as a family and would leave together. However, when the process began, they stated it was only children and women, and the men would stay. So, we were already prepared, discussing it among ourselves. For my sister and me, it was very difficult; we said there was no chance, and we only wanted to leave together. But Fernando and Luis said, 'No chance, you're leaving.' They tried to handle it as calmly as possible so that we wouldn't suffer, but it was hard for both us and them. We said our goodbyes with hugs, 'Just three more days, and we'll meet again,' we said because we were convinced that the releases would continue. We never thought everything would come to a halt," Clara said.
"We thought there must be more children, a few more women, and then they would start with the men. 'See you soon,' we said. At that point, it wasn't dramatic externally, but it was incredibly tough for us. Luis is a father of four and a grandfather to ten grandchildren. I asked him what message to convey to the family, and he said, 'Wait for me in the green gardens, tell them I love them very much, and soon we'll see each other and embrace.' And then we hugged and parted ways."
Clara said Luis had not been given his medications or the respirator he needs in his sleep. He was held captive without his glasses or hearing aids.
"The mental state is what worries me the most, both health-wise and emotionally, because there, it's just waiting. Second after second with no action, no choice of what to do. My greatest concern is that they will break emotionally. Regarding the conditions and relations with the returnees, I don't want to elaborate. I just want to protect them, so I don't want to expose all the details. I can only say that the biggest difficulty there is the time that doesn't pass and the lack of things to do, a feeling of nothing," she explained.