EXCLUSIVE: ‘They treated us like we were dogs, not human beings’: Israeli hostage describes hell endured while captive… and first account of dramatic rescue by IDF ‘with gunfire in all directions like a movie’


After 129 days cowering under the armed guard of cruel Hamas terrorists in Gaza, Luis Har believed his luck had finally run out.

At 2am a huge explosion threw the 71-year-old accountant from his mattress and ripped off the door from his tiny cell-like room.

He rolled away from the blast fearing the two-storey apartment where he was held with his girlfriend’s brother, Fernando Marman, 60, had been destroyed.

But in the chaos he felt an arm grab his leg and, for the first time in over four months, a stranger speaking Hebrew. He froze as he heard the impossible words: “Luis, it’s the IDF – we came to take you home.”

‘Suddenly all the pressure was released,’ Mr Har told the Daily Mail as he recounted his extraordinary rescue for the first time in Tel Aviv.

After 129 days cowering under the armed guard of cruel Hamas terrorists in Gaza , Luis Har believed his luck had finally run out

After 129 days cowering under the armed guard of cruel Hamas terrorists in Gaza , Luis Har believed his luck had finally run out

At 2am a huge explosion threw the 71-year-old accountant Luis Har (right) from his mattress and ripped off the door from his tiny cell-like room. He rolled away from the blast fearing the two-storey apartment where he was held with his girlfriend's brother, Fernando Marman (left), 60, had been destroyed

At 2am a huge explosion threw the 71-year-old accountant Luis Har (right) from his mattress and ripped off the door from his tiny cell-like room. He rolled away from the blast fearing the two-storey apartment where he was held with his girlfriend’s brother, Fernando Marman (left), 60, had been destroyed

Rescued Israeli-Argentinian hostage Louis Har was reunited with his family at the Tel Hashomer Hospital in Ramat Gan, on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, on February 12

Rescued Israeli-Argentinian hostage Louis Har was reunited with his family at the Tel Hashomer Hospital in Ramat Gan, on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, on February 12

‘If that soldier had told me to jump up, I would have jumped up. We were completely in their hands. Really completely. There was a feeling of complete security.’

Within 60 minutes he was back on Israeli soil. The elite IDF unit hauled him and Fernando into a waiting helicopter which dodged rocket fire to land at Sheba Medical Centre in Central Israel.

An incredible photograph shows the pale, gaunt septuagenarian embracing his overjoyed family moments later on February 12.

Today Mr Har recounts the daring IDF mission that made headlines around the world and gives one of the most detailed accounts yet of life in Hamas captivity.

The Argentinian-Israeli was taken hostage along with his partner, Clara Marman, 62, her brother Fernando, sister Gabriela Leimberg, 59 and Gabriela’s daughter, Mia Leimberg, 17.

Incredibly all five relatives – and their pet dog – made it back from Gaza alive. Clara, Gabriela, Mia and her shih tzu, Bella, were released in November before Fernando and Mr Har’s rescue.

He tells how he tried to bond over Argentinian football star Lionel Messi with his captors who told him Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu was targeting hostages and wanted them dead.

Mr Har also details how he spent over four months without sunlight and had dreams of hugging his grandchildren that were ‘so real’ he woke ‘crying’ – before hiding his emotion from guards.

The family were at home in Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak when gunmen poured over the border and stormed their commune near South Gaza at dawn on October 7.

As terrorists smashed their windows the five relatives dashed to their bomb shelter with Bella – but the gunmen chased them and fired into the room.

‘One of the bullets passed very close to Fernando – he felt the bullet,’ said Mr Har. ‘We screamed, ‘Don’t shoot, don’t shoot!’ Then they took us out of the room.’

They emerged to an apocalyptic scene as terrorists with ‘huge, frightening eyes’ torched the Kibbutz to the ground as they were led at gunpoint to a white pick-up truck.

Officers from an Israeli special police unit take part in a rescue operation that freed Fernando Simon Marman and Louis Hare, hostages held by Hamas, at a location given as Gaza, in this still image taken from video released February 13

Officers from an Israeli special police unit take part in a rescue operation that freed Fernando Simon Marman and Louis Hare, hostages held by Hamas, at a location given as Gaza, in this still image taken from video released February 13 

Mr Har (pictured) also details how he spent over four months without sunlight and had dreams of hugging his grandchildren that were 'so real' he woke 'crying' – before hiding his emotion from guards

Mr Har (pictured) also details how he spent over four months without sunlight and had dreams of hugging his grandchildren that were ‘so real’ he woke ‘crying’ – before hiding his emotion from guards

From here he was transferred to Sheba Medical Centre in Central Israel where an incredible photograph shows the pale, gaunt septuagenarian (right) embracing his overjoyed family on February 12

From here he was transferred to Sheba Medical Centre in Central Israel where an incredible photograph shows the pale, gaunt septuagenarian (right) embracing his overjoyed family on February 12

Drone footage showing Shayetet 13 (Israeli commandos) soldiers' with the hostages: Louis Har and Fernando Marman after being rescued from Hamas house in Rafah

Drone footage showing Shayetet 13 (Israeli commandos) soldiers’ with the hostages: Louis Har and Fernando Marman after being rescued from Hamas house in Rafah

The family were at home (pictured) in Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak when gunmen poured over the border and stormed their commune near South Gaza at dawn on October 7

The family were at home (pictured) in Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak when gunmen poured over the border and stormed their commune near South Gaza at dawn on October 7

It sped erratically to the border as five terrorists fired their guns into the air screaming ‘Allahu Akbar’. They passed wave after wave of armed youths rushing into Israel looting everything they saw as bodies lay scattered by the roadside.

Mr Har said: ‘It was like a movie. Their barbarism… They didn’t consider us at all, as if we were animals or dogs. They just trampled all over us freely. Real barbarians. As if we weren’t human beings.

‘A crowd of youths with a large cleaver threatened to slaughter us. They were going to lynch us, then the car started driving at high speed.’

They passed a woman filming the destruction on her phone and made sure she captured them so any relatives that saw the footage ‘know we’re alive’.

Finally, they arrived at a small building in Gaza. ‘They opened a small gate and took us into a tunnel with terrorists in front, in the middle, and at the back, with guns.’

For three hours the five of them were pushed barefoot through the network at gunpoint, at times forced to crawl on their hands and knees. The terrorists had small notes to navigate through the underground maze.

‘It was dark all the time,’ said Mr Har. ‘The only light was from the phone. There was no air. It felt like we would never get out of there.’

At one point another group of terrorists started chasing them, shouting ‘Jews! Jews!’ Thinking on his feet, Mr Har, who was born in Argentina, shouted back: ‘Argentinians, Argentinians! Messi, Messi!’

Eventually they reached the destination and were handed a ladder. Somehow, Mia had smuggled her little chi tzu down the tunnels without them noticing.

Mr Har laughs as he recounts how Bella managed to survive unnoticed. ‘She doesn’t know she’s a dog – she thinks she’s a doll. She behaves like a doll, we didn’t hear a sound from her. She was more heroic than us.’

Today Mr Har (pictured with Mr Marman after the rescue) recounts the daring IDF mission that made headlines around the world and gives one of the most detailed accounts yet of life in Hamas captivity

Today Mr Har (pictured with Mr Marman after the rescue) recounts the daring IDF mission that made headlines around the world and gives one of the most detailed accounts yet of life in Hamas captivity

Fernando Simon Marman and Louis Hare, two Israeli hostages who were freed in a special forces operation in Rafah, Gaza. They were overjoyed when they were reunited with their family at Sheba Medical Center in Israel on February 12

Fernando Simon Marman and Louis Hare, two Israeli hostages who were freed in a special forces operation in Rafah, Gaza. They were overjoyed when they were reunited with their family at Sheba Medical Center in Israel on February 12

Rescued Israeli-Argentinian hostage Fernando Simon Marman (right) being reunited with his family at the Tel Hashomer Hospital in Ramat Gan, on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, on February 12

Rescued Israeli-Argentinian hostage Fernando Simon Marman (right) being reunited with his family at the Tel Hashomer Hospital in Ramat Gan, on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, on February 12

An armed security guard strokes a dog outside the house where rescued Israeli-Argentinian Louis Har and Fernando Simon Marman were taken by Hamas militants on the October 7 attack in the southern Israeli Kibbutz of Nir Yitzhak, on February 12

An armed security guard strokes a dog outside the house where rescued Israeli-Argentinian Louis Har and Fernando Simon Marman were taken by Hamas militants on the October 7 attack in the southern Israeli Kibbutz of Nir Yitzhak, on February 12

They climbed 40 metres to the surface and emerged by a geese coop. He didn’t know it then, but this was to be the last time the family had a glimpse of sunlight before they were freed months later.

After two days in one building, they were moved to a second apartment where they remained for 50 days in a windowless room under the gaze of cruel armed guards who taunted them.

They invented nicknames for each of their captors in Spanish and kept their Hebrew to a minimum so they could not be understood.

One terrorist took an interest in Mia, laughing at her and saying he was ‘single and wanted to marry her’. When Mr Har told him to stop, the guard began howling and mocked him, saying: ‘Wow, there’s a wolf here.’ 

Later he came back with a large commando knife and started playing with it to ‘frighten us’.

They slept on grubby, paper-thin mattresses on the floor, surviving off scraps of pitta bread as they imagined feasting on Argentinian steaks and shared life stories to pass the days.

‘There was constant psychological warfare,’ Mr Har said. ‘They told us it wasn’t advisable to wander outside, that they would beat us to death.

‘They really made sure to tell us every failure of the IDF or every time soldiers were killed. They told us we had nowhere to return to, that Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak no longer existed.

‘They kept telling us not to speak loudly because the UAV’s, if they heard us, would pass the information to Netanyahu and Netanyahu would send planes to bomb us because he doesn’t want any deal, he wants to kill us. They kept repeating this to us, every day. Eventually it gets into your head.’

During these days, Bella the dog was ‘our hero’, he said. She stayed silent, comforting Mia, and avoiding the terrorists who threatened her.

After 52 days, Clara, Gabriella and Mia were told they were to be freed. Mr Har, who has four children from his first marriage – Karine 45, Nir 42, Rinat 38 and Natalie 36 – told Clara to let them know he is alive.

He and Fernando were left ‘depressed for one day’ after they left and realised they would not be exchanged, but then accepted their fate. For three months just the two of them sat together under armed guard. 

The Argentinian-Israeli was taken hostage along with his partner, Clara Marman, 62, her brother Fernando, sister Gabriela Leimberg, 59 and Gabriela's daughter, Mia Leimberg, 17

The Argentinian-Israeli was taken hostage along with his partner, Clara Marman, 62, her brother Fernando, sister Gabriela Leimberg, 59 and Gabriela’s daughter, Mia Leimberg, 17

Officers from an Israeli special police unit take part in a rescue operation that freed Fernando Simon Marman and Louis Hare, hostages held by Hamas, at a location given as Gaza, in this still image taken from video released February 13

Officers from an Israeli special police unit take part in a rescue operation that freed Fernando Simon Marman and Louis Hare, hostages held by Hamas, at a location given as Gaza, in this still image taken from video released February 13

An incredible photograph shows the pale, gaunt septuagenarian embracing his overjoyed family moments later on February 12

An incredible photograph shows the pale, gaunt septuagenarian embracing his overjoyed family moments later on February 12

‘I know him and he knows me better than anyone else in the world, after those three months,’ he says. But asked if he misses Fernando now they are home, Mr Har laughs – before joking: ‘No.’

Each morning, they would remind each other what day it was and how long they had been in captivity. If the sky was clear a tiny, tinted window would occasionally indicate what time of day it was.

It was during these long, monotonous days alone with Fernando that Mr Har’s dreams of his 10 grandchildren, aged between one and 17, become so vivid.

‘I felt their hug in my body, the warmth of their bodies,’ he said. ‘I felt them all the time. Many times it was like I was talking to them, a feeling of closeness.’

Often, they were so real he would awake in tears, but quickly wipe his eyes so the guards, and his fellow hostage, would not see.

‘Even the day before our release, I really felt one of the kids hugging me,’ he said.

After 120 days in captivity, Mr Har had a dream that he was saved by Israeli commandos. Just days later, the miracle was to come true.

On the evening of February 11 he had gone to bed with a bad stomach, and only got to sleep by 11.30pm. Suddenly, at 2am, he was woken by a huge blast that threw him from his bed.

‘There’s a big explosion,’ he said. ‘I think it’s an Israeli attack on the building. I rolled towards the door, towards the terrorists. They were in another room, there were about four terrorists guarding us all the time.

‘But I rolled towards them and suddenly I heard in Hebrew: ‘Luis! Here, here!’ It was Fernando calling me.

‘I came back on all fours, like a dog. Someone grabbed my leg and shouted to me: ‘Luis, it’s the IDF! It’s the IDF, we came to take you home.’

Even one month after that dramatic night, the relief is visible on Mr Har’s face as he relives that moment.

‘We were completely in their hands, really completely,’ he said. ‘There was a feeling of complete security. We did everything they told us.’

Within seconds of the door being blown, elite IDF Yamam unit had stormed the room and grabbed both men.

Soon he and Fernando were reunited with Gabriella, Clara and Clara's daughter, Maayan

Soon he and Fernando were reunited with Gabriella, Clara and Clara’s daughter, Maayan

After landing at Sheba Medical Centre they were reunited with their family, who had only been told of the rescue minutes earlier.

After landing at Sheba Medical Centre they were reunited with their family, who had only been told of the rescue minutes earlier.

For Mr Har, his final dream came true in the following days when his six-year-old grandson, Daniel, visited him in hospital. 'He came and hugged me really tightly and said to me, "Grandpa, you know I love you"'

For Mr Har, his final dream came true in the following days when his six-year-old grandson, Daniel, visited him in hospital. ‘He came and hugged me really tightly and said to me, “Grandpa, you know I love you”‘

‘There was gunfire from all directions, like in a movie,’ said Mr Har. ‘I have never seen anything like this before, but I knew I was in the best hands with the IDF who risked themselves to save us.’

Dramatic night vision footage shows the soldiers dragging the men onto a waiting helicopter where they are seen grinning in shock and thanking the troops over and over again.

‘Being in the helicopter was ecstatic,’ said Mr Har. ‘All the tension was gone, we saw we were going home when we saw the sea, and when we saw Ashdod from above with all the lights in the dark.’

After landing at Sheba Medical Centre they were reunited with their family, who had only been told of the rescue minutes earlier. 

‘When I got there Karine, told me on the phone they were coming as fast as they could.’ Soon he and Fernando were reunited with Gabriella, Clara and Clara’s daughter, Maayan.

An iconic photograph shows them embracing, with Mr Har almost too weak to hug them. Remarking on that picture, Mr Har says: ‘We were so happy, but it was so strange we were in absolute shock.

‘We went from the worst place to the best in such a short space of time. That photo symbolizes family and a miracle. It’s such a miracle.

‘My heart was bursting with happiness back with my family.’

For Mr Har, his final dream came true in the following days when his six-year-old grandson, Daniel, visited him in hospital.

‘He came and hugged me really tightly and said to me, “Grandpa, you know I love you.”‘

Then the rest came. ‘Even Gal the oldest, he came and hugged me so tightly,’ Mr Har said. ‘He started crying endlessly, and hugged.’

Mr Har has undergone a gradual reintegration since his ordeal, slowly told how many of his friends from his Kibbutz have been killed. 

He is still not allowed to watch television given how fragile his state of mind is.

But despite his ordeal, he is still fighting for the return of the 134 hostages who remain in Gaza. ‘It is so terrible, so difficult for them to live like that,’ says the one man who knows more than anyone what they are suffering.

‘We need to bring back all the people, everyone,’ he says.



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