Fact-check: Were the two recently liberated Israeli hostages… actually freed more than a month ago?

Hostage Luis Har, center, is hugged by relatives after being rescued from captivity in the Gaza Strip, at the Sheba Medical Center on Feb. 12, 2024.
Hostage Luis Har, center, is hugged by relatives after being rescued from captivity in the Gaza Strip, at the Sheba Medical Center on Feb. 12, 2024. Copyright AP/AP
Copyright AP/AP
By Sophia Khatsenkova
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Some social media users are falsely claiming the two recently freed hostages were rescued in December. Certain users accused Israel of using the ‘liberation’ to justify the country's attack on Rafah, southern Gaza.

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Two men taken captive by Hamas on 7 October were rescued on Monday by the Israeli military. 

During the early-morning raid, Israel carried out airstrikes that the Hamas-run Health Ministry said killed around 100 people in the southern city of Rafah in Gaza. 

The two men, Louis Har and Fernando Marman had been kidnapped in the kibbutz of Nir Yitzak and had spent 128 days in captivity.

However, according to somesocial media users, Har and Marman were not freed during Monday's assault but were rescued by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) more than one month ago. 

Some shared what they claim is a screenshot of an article in Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, which says the two hostages were released "in an operation by IDF on 2 February 2024."

Some believe this is proof Israel staged a fake hostage liberation as an excuse to attack the city of Rafah, where 1,4 million Palestinians are currently sheltering from Israel's strikes. 

"Israel paper Haaretz already claimed they were released on 2 February! They have produced zero footage of the fake rescue ever happening! They faked a rescue to justify massacring 100 people," posted one X user. 

Others tweeted a screenshot of another alleged article appearing in the Times of Israel, which claims one of the hostages, Louis Har, was rescued in December 2023.

"How many times did Israel save the same hostage?" quipped another account. 

A doctored screenshot

The Cube looked at the Haaretz website and found the original article about the hostages released.

It does say the two men were released on 12 February, the correct date. 

Original article accessed on 14 February 2024
Original article accessed on 14 February 2024Haartez

This means the screenshot that has been circulating has been doctored. 

As for the alleged Times of Israel article, we can check using a tool called Wayback Machine, which shows us how a webpage has been modified over time. 

Using the tool, The Cube found the first version of the article online on 19 December 2023. The title describes Louis Har as "taken captive", not released.

The original article published by Times of Israel in December 2023
The original article published by Times of Israel in December 2023Times of Israel / WayBack Machine

The tool shows that the title and content of the article were changed starting 12 February after Israel's raid to mention the release of the two hostages.

The edits were only made after the rescue happened on 12 February
The edits were only made after the rescue happened on 12 FebruaryTimes of Israel / Wayback Machine

But the initial article date still remains 19 December 2023 which is what caused all of this confusion online. 

The Times of Israel did mention the article was updated on 12 February 2024. 

According to Israel, 130 hostages are still in Gaza, 29 of whom are believed to have died, out of around 250 people kidnapped on 7 October.

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