Israel Hostage Rescue Creates Outrage

Joy of four returned safe is mixed with the reality of scores of dead Palestinians.

AP (“Israel rescues 4 hostages taken in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, and 210 Palestinians are reported killed“):

Israel on Saturday carried out its largest hostage rescue operation since the latest war with Hamas began, taking four to safety out of central Gaza in a heavy air and ground assault. At least 210 Palestinians, including children, were killed, a Gaza health official said.

Israelis were jubilant as the army said it freed Noa Argamani, 26; Almog Meir Jan, 22; Andrey Kozlov, 27; and Shlomi Ziv, 41, in a daytime operation in the heart of Nuseirat, raiding two locations at once while under fire. All were well, the military said. They were taken by helicopter for medical checks and tearful reunions with loved ones after 246 days held.

Argamani had been one of the most widely recognized hostages after being taken, like the three others, from a music festival. The video of her abduction showed her seated between two men on a motorcycle as she screamed, “Don’t kill me!”

Her mother, Liora, has brain cancer and had released a video pleading to see her daughter. Israel’s Channel 13 said Argamani was moved to the hospital where her mother is treated. In a message released by the government, Argamani told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu she was “very excited,” saying she hadn’t heard Hebrew in so long.

Netanyahu in a statement vowed to continue the fighting until all hostages are freed. The operation was “daring in nature, planned brilliantly, and executed in an extraordinary fashion,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said.

Israeli aircraft hummed overhead as the bodies of 109 Palestinians including 23 children and 11 women were taken to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, where spokesperson Khalil Degran told The Associated Press more than 100 wounded also arrived. He said that overall, 210 dead had been taken there and to Al-Awda Hospital, saying he had spoken to the director there. Al-Awda’s numbers couldn’t immediately be confirmed.

“The horrific massacre committed today by Netanyahu and his fascist government against the Palestinian people in Gaza, which led to slaughter of 210 and more than 400 wounded so far — under the pretext of liberating those detained by the resistance — confirms what the resistance has said repeatedly: that Netanyahu doesn’t plan to reach an agreement to stop the war and free the captured Israelis peacefully,” said Bassem Naim, a senior Hamas official now based in Lebanon.

[…]

Neighboring Egypt condemned “with the strongest terms” Israel’s attacks on the Nuseirat refugee camp, with its foreign ministry calling it a “flagrant violation of all rules of international law.” Neighboring Jordan also condemned it.

“The bloodbath must end immediately,” the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on the social platform X, noting reports of civilian deaths.

Israel’s military said it had attacked “threats to our forces in the area,” adding that one commando died from his wounds.

Israel’s military spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, told reporters that military intelligence determined some time ago that the hostages were being held in two apartments, about 200 meters (219 yards) away from each other, in the heart of the Nuseirat camp. He said the forces had trained repeatedly on a model of the apartment buildings.

Hagari said the forces moved in simultaneously in broad daylight on both apartments, believing this ensured the best element of surprise. But he said the rescuers came under heavy fire as they moved out, including from gunmen firing rocket-propelled grenades from within the neighborhood.

“A lot of fire was around us,” he said, adding that the military responded with heavy force, including from aircraft, to extract the rescuers and freed hostages.

A U.S. hostage cell provided advice and support throughout the process of locating and rescuing the hostages, according to a Biden administration official, who was not authorized to comment and requested anonymity. The hostage cells are multi-agency teams.

Other sources similarly juxtapose the rescue of four hostages with the deaths of as many as 274 Palestinians.

NPR, “Israel rescues 4 hostages in attacks that kill over 250 Palestinians” (an earlier version was headlined “Israeli forces rescue four hostages in ‘complex’ operation“)

CNN, “Israel rescues four hostages in operation Gazan officials say killed more than 200

WaPo (“At least 274 Palestinians killed during Israeli raid to rescue 4 hostages”) reverses the order.

Reuters (“Israel pounds central Gaza as Palestinian death toll in hostage rescue raid rises to 274“) elides the happy news altogether.

NYT (“Israel’s Euphoria Over Hostage Rescue May Be Fleeting“) skips straight to analysis:

For months, Israelis had heard only about hostages being killed or declared dead in Gaza. The “lucky” families were those whose loved ones’ remains were retrieved by soldiers, at great risk, and brought home to Israel for burial.

So the audacious rescue on Saturday of four living hostages instantly raised morale in Israel and offered a momentary victory, at least, for the country’s embattled prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

But by Sunday, euphoria was already giving way to a harsh reality. The heavy air and ground assault that accompanied the rescue killed scores of Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials. And the operation failed to resolve any of the deep dilemmas and challenges vexing the Israeli government.

Eight months into its grinding war in Gaza, Israel still appears to be far from achieving its stated objectives of dismantling Hamas’s military and governing capabilities. And Israelis fear that time is running out for many of the hostages in Gaza. About a third of the 120 that remain have already been declared dead by the Israeli authorities.

At the same time, Israel’s leadership is grappling with an escalation of hostilities across the northern border with Lebanon and battling increasing international isolation and opprobrium over the war in Gaza, including allegations of genocide that are being heard by the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

The rescue mission “doesn’t solve a single one of the problems that Israel has been facing ever since October 7,” wrote Nahum Barnea, a leading Israeli political columnist, in Sunday’s popular Yediot Ahronot newspaper.

“It doesn’t solve the problem in the north; it doesn’t solve the problem in Gaza; and it doesn’t solve the slew of other problems that threaten Israel in the international arena,” he added.

Pressure has been building on the Israeli government to reach a deal with Hamas for the release of all the remaining hostages. But the fate of Israel’s proposal for a truce and a hostage and prisoner swap, as outlined by President Biden more than a week ago, is still uncertain, with the sides yet to reach understandings via mediators that would allow negotiations to resume.

Israelis are now debating whether the hostage rescue operation will help or hinder the prospects for such a deal — one that, should it go ahead, could threaten Mr. Netanyahu’s hold on power, with far-rightists in his ruling coalition vowing to quit and bring down his government.

None of this is wrong. Hamas committed mass atrocities on October 7 and took scores of innocents hostage. Since then, they’ve violated all the rules of war by hiding amongst their own civilian population, making it impossible for Israel to kill their fighters or rescue the hostages without killing large numbers of noncombatants.

While Israeli planners have, in some instances, taken rather extraordinary measures to evacuate buildings and entire city blocks, there have also been many examples where forces on the ground were, at best, indifferent to collateral damage. To the extent there was sympathy for their position after October 7, it’s mostly gone. Even if one believes adult Palestinians are effectively collaborators with Hamas, it’s hard to argue the same of the children.

Israeli leaders continue to have no good options. Their coalition is almost unanimous that Hamas must be destroyed, which is impossible to do without massive loss of innocents—if at all. And every deal on the table rewards Hamas for its crimes, keeping their leadership alive and free and getting back scores of Palestinian criminals in exchange for each innocent hostage returned.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Kevin says:

    It should also be noted that there are allegations that the attack involved Israeli armed forces hiding in an aid truck as well. You know, the thing that justified their killing an entire aid convoy a few weeks ago, and I don’t think was ever actually proven true.

    The laws of war don’t say that one side breaking them justifies any and all behavior by the other side.

    And, as the article above says, this solves none of the problems in Gaza or the West Bank. And also, it must be noted that some number of those “Palestinian criminals” are criminals in the same sense the Uighurs are criminals in China.

    Israel has shown that it’s perfectly capable of killing high level nuclear scientists and military leaders in Iran and elsewhere with minimal to no civilian casualties. It’s unclear to me why they don’t take the same approach to Hamas leadership. No one would criticize them for that.

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  2. Modulo Myself says:

    It took eight months to rescue four hostages. They have several hundred remaining. What exactly are Israel’s plans for getting them back? Turn the dial up on torturing every Palestinian man they come into contact with, in hopes of getting intel? I don’t see Hamas accepting Israel’s demand that they release the hostages in return for being destroyed–or else. Israel has committed itself to the idea that Palestinians aren’t fully human, and can be dealt with as such, but that won’t help them get the hostages back.

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  3. Modulo Myself says:

    And also, it must be noted that some number of those “Palestinian criminals” are criminals in the same sense the Uighurs are criminals in China.

    If the reality of the Israeli prison system and the 1000s it holds without charges isn’t clear at this point in time, it will never be clear.

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  4. Slugger says:

    We should all take to the streets to protest Hamas’ use of the civilian population as human shields for their nefarious actions.

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  5. Jason says:

    @Kevin:I don’t criticize them for this. Onward and upwards lads!

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  6. Chip Daniels says:

    The reason this is so difficult is that the conflict is a political problem more than a military one.

    Neither side in the conflict has a realistic political goal in mind, so their only strategy is to just keep killing in the hopes that somehow a political solution will emerge from the smoke.

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  7. Gustopher says:

    274 dead to rescue 4 doesn’t sound like a reasonable ratio of civilian casualties to hostages rescued. On the other hand, hiding hostages in a refugee camp is going to increase the risk to refugees.

    I’m sure there will be more video of this coming out that shows whether it was a planned smaller strike that ran into unexpectedly high resistance (as Israel claims), or if this was closer to an indiscriminate slaughter. If this is effectively a rescue operation for 24 commandos and 4 hostages under heavy fire among refugees… that’s very different than if this was how the operation was supposed to go.

    I’m assuming this was a more targeted operation gone wrong. There are reports of US involvement, and I mostly assume that this means the plan was for a lot less death.

    I reserve the right to be morally outraged as more facts emerge.

    But, does this make the remaining hostages safer?

    Their value as bargaining chips has to be balanced against the danger and cost in holding them, and this changes that balance.

    Is the incremental value of the N+1th hostage high enough for the cost? As N increases, maybe not. 388 living hostages is about as good as 389. (Just picking random numbers here as an example)

    And does this make Israel safer?

    It will be presented as a massacre, even if it eventually turns out to be a more targeted operation gone wrong. It will further erode support for Israel among its allies (or at least among its allies’ populations).

    Hamas probably counts this as a victory (which might mean the other hostages value has increased, and they are safer.)

    ——
    Also, if I am ever held hostage by Hamas, and the only way to rescue me is to kill 274 people and injure hundreds more… just aim a smart bomb at me.

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  8. JKB says:
  9. Mikey says:

    @JKB: You support Trump, who uttered over ten thousand verified lies during his mal-administration. You can kindly step off with any assertion you give a flying fuck about facts.

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  10. Gustopher says:

    scores of dead

    Hamas committed mass atrocities on October 7 and took scores of innocents hostage.

    the rescue killed scores of Palestinians

    This post and the articles it quotes kind of flatten everything down with the use of “scores”. Both this tragedy, and Oct 7th. I think that once you pass two hundred, it’s “hundreds.”

    Once JKB posts random twitter garbage, I figure pedantry is fine. The seal for nonsense has been broken!

    (Looking up the number of hostages, I now see that I had merged the 1100 dead on Oct 7th into the hostages. And so I believed there were 1100 hostages. Huh. Somehow this feels like it is relevant to the Biden fibbing thread)

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  11. DK says:

    @JKB:

    Facts matter….

    To you? O rly?

    Did Trump try to illegally stay office and incite the Jan 6 terror attack based on his sore loser election lies, rather than accept he lost by 8 million votes because his presidency was a chaoti, divisive failure replete with his COVID incompetence?

    Did Trump illegally refuse to return sensitive government documents?

    Did Trump illegally falsify business records to cover up a $130,000 campaign contribution in the form of hush money payment to a former mistress?

    Did Trump — who praised Jeff Epstein, his friend of 15+ years — repeatedly made gross comments sexualizing his own daughter?

    Let’s see how much you care about facts.

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  12. Michael Reynolds says:

    Benny Gantz has resigned from the Israeli war cabinet. This not good news.

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  13. Raoul says:

    Let’s see: option one- agree to a permanent cease fire and all hostages are released. Option two- kill nearly 300 mostly civilian Palestinians to rescue 4 hostages. Mmm, what will the government of Israel decide to do.

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  14. Andy says:

    Israel Hostage Rescue Creates Outrage

    #shockednotshocked

    Hamas is clearly very upset they’ve lost four important bargaining chips and a lot of fighters. And they are wondering about their security as this was a huge intelligence & security failure for them.

    It’s been interesting to see who among the wider audience without skin in this game are also upset – and it turns out that many are, hence the “outrage” that Israel would dare rescue hostages taken and held in a black letter war crime by Hamas. The Hamas SIMPs, various Israel/Jew haters and useful idiots find it disturbing that Israel would dare rescue hostages. Israel is, once again – expected to conduct immaculate operations when Hamas makes such things impossible.

    Back in reality, Israel went in covertly (they did not use an aid vehicle – that is Hamas propaganda) to prevent the hostages from being executed and were met with resistance once they reached the hostages, including one assault commander, who was wounded and ultimately died at the apartment of the “journalist” JKB mentioned.

    But the real fighting didn’t start until the exfiltration with the hostages. At this point, Hamas, now alerted to what was going on, poured fighters into the area to try to stop the rescue. That’s when the “scores” of Palestinians died. The exact number and how many of those were Hamas vs innocents caught in the crossfire isn’t known and probably never will be. As usual, the GMoH provides a number killed but no information on how many of those were Hamas or working for Hamas (such as the people holding the hostages in their homes).

    But the responsibility for those deaths is with Hamas. It was Hamas that chose to hide hostages in civilian areas in the homes of allies in a very densely populated area. It was Hamas that chose to engage Israeli forces in that densely populated terrain to try to stop the rescue, ensuring many civilians would be caught in the crossfire. Yet the narrative is entirely about how many Palestinians the Israeli raid killed. SSDD!

    @Kevin:

    It should also be noted that there are allegations that the attack involved Israeli armed forces hiding in an aid truck as well. You know, the thing that justified their killing an entire aid convoy a few weeks ago, and I don’t think was ever actually proven true.

    Don’t believe every allegation you read, including the claims that Israel justified killing an entire aid convoy. In that older case, Israel never justified killing (ie. deliberately targeting) an aid convoy, its claim is that it didn’t think it was targeting an aid convoy.

    And, as the article above says, this solves none of the problems in Gaza or the West Bank.

    The raid was intended to rescue hostages, not to solve any problems in the Gaza or West bank. No one has suggested it was intended to do anything else, so this is a strange criticism to make.

    Israel has shown that it’s perfectly capable of killing high level nuclear scientists and military leaders in Iran and elsewhere with minimal to no civilian casualties. It’s unclear to me why they don’t take the same approach to Hamas leadership. No one would criticize them for that.

    Hamas – intentionally – makes it impossible to accomplish what you’re suggesting. Secondly, your comparison is apples and oranges. This is a war and is far different from a handful of assassinations against targets that were not prepared. Hamas IS prepared, and you simply can’t use the methods of clandestine assassinations in foreign territory in a war.

    @Gustopher:

    274 dead to rescue 4 doesn’t sound like a reasonable ratio of civilian casualties to hostages rescued

    First, 274 is a number that one should not take on faith. Secondly, you calling all of them”civilian casualties” is certainly false. The number of civilians vs the number of Hamas fighters or agents (the people holding the hostages in their homes) is unknown. Not only that, but Israel wasn’t the only one shooting, so even if one’s concern only extents to which side pulled the trigger, some number of dead will have died from Hamas fighters and not only the Israelis.

    This is a good example of the kinds of false narratives that develop from bad reporting, and implicit assumptions. This war includes two sides, both of whom have agency and weapons and a will to fight. Attributing all Palestinian casualties to be civilians and killed solely by Israel is simply incorrect at best.

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  15. wr says:

    @Andy: Remember, if those children didn’t want to be killed, they shouldn’t have let their grandparents vote for Hamas years before they were born.

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  16. Andy says:

    @wr:

    Yes, which makes it strange that so many seem invested in Hamas winning this war.

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  17. Kazzy says:

    It would seem to me that if Israeli forces could be surgical enough to extract the hostages unharmed, they could be surgical enough to not kill kids. No?

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  18. steve says:

    I am OK with them killing a lot of people if it meant rescuing hostages. Hamas should never have taken them and should have let them go long ago. What I cant grasp is that the same Israeli intelligences services that couldn’t figure out they were facing a large scale attack on the week it was most likely to happen (50th anniversary of Yom Kippur) managed to figure out where 4 hostages were being held. Must have been the US help.

    Steve

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  19. DrDaveT says:

    @Andy:

    The Hamas SIMPs, various Israel/Jew haters and useful idiots find it disturbing that Israel would dare rescue hostages.

    So, again, where would you draw the line? How many civilians would it have been OK to kill in order to rescue those 4 hostages? 500? 1000? Arbitrarily many? Or was this right at the sweet spot — 274 is fine but 277 would have been too many? It’s hard to interpret your contempt without some kind of yardstick.

    An operation of this kind, with this level of collateral damage, would be absolutely unacceptable to US military forces. I don’t know exactly where they draw the line, but I’m pretty sure it’s a 2-digit number. Are you saying US doctrine in this regard is badly misguided?

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  20. SenyorDave says:

    @DrDaveT: The fallback is now it is Hamas’ fault. No matter what happens it is Hamas’ fault. Israel targets aid trucks, its Hamas’ fault. Israel goes after journalists, IDF forces watch or actively aid settler’s going after Palestinians in the West Bank, it must be Hamas’ fault. Decades of Israel inching towards apartheid and crickets from most of those same people.

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  21. wr says:

    @Andy: So many dead children seem invested in Hamas winning the war? I’d love to see the crosstabs on that poll!

    But seriously, if you think that steadfastly defending everything the Israeli government does, no matter how horrible or poorly thought out, is coming to their aid, I think you need to read up on the definition of a friend. When they are essentially turning the entire world against what started out as a righteous cause, they need an intervention, not a cheerleader.

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  22. DK says:

    @Raoul:

    agree to a permanent cease fire and all hostages are released.

    Hamas is not a potted plant. It prefers more “martyrs,” internal Isrseli turmoil, and rising anti-Israel sentiment to a ceasefire. Fortunately for Netanyahu and the Israeli right, their cynical desire to prolong the war and fight to the death dovetail nicely Hamas’s preference for holy war.

    Religious fanatics do not bend to reason.

    A targeted raid planned for months liberating four souls is a cause for celebration at the micro level, but a letdown at the macro level. So much for so little shows the remaining hostages’ horror will not soon end. And Palestinian lives are clearly expendable, both to Palestinian and Israeli decision-makers. A real nightmare scenario.

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  23. wr says:

    @DrDaveT: I can’t decide if you’re a Hamas simp, a Jew hater, or a useful idiot, but you must be one of the three if you care about kids being slaughtered. At least according to Andy.

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  24. DK says:

    @wr: Israeli’s rightwing leaders and their enablers and fake friends have done incalculable damage to Israeli security. But per usual with modern conservatives everywhere, they will continue to whine and play the victim — blaming everyone else for their self-defeating choices and for the inevitable poor outcomes of their stubborn arrogance.

    Outside of Hamas, the biggest Hamas enabler on the planet is Israel’s own prime minister. Israel can never have the high ground as long as he and other far right Jewish terrorists remains in government. If so-called pro Israel Westerners were serious people, they would be in the streets howling for his ouster – as decent Israelis already are.

    That the word count of their outrage towards American college kids is exponentially higher than for Netanyahu tells you all you need to know about the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the performatively-“pro-Israel” (pfft) crowd.

    They remind me of the rightwing Catholics whose forked tongues are always flapping about Gay Pride and Joe Biden’s faith, yet are *crickets* on the constantly breaking news about Catholic clergy pedophilia. Phony, self-righteous, hypocritical frauds.

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  25. Gustopher says:

    @Andy:

    Israel went in covertly (they did not use an aid vehicle – that is Hamas propaganda) to prevent the hostages from being executed

    Why do we believe that the hostages were going to be executed?

    They’ve had them for more than six months, you would think that if Hamas was just going to execute them, they would have done so already.

    The claim that they were going to be executed sounds like Israeli propaganda, just as you claim the reports of Israel using aid trucks as cover is Hamas propaganda.

    First, 274 is a number that one should not take on faith. Secondly, you calling all of them”civilian casualties” is certainly false.

    I actually carefully did not place the word civilian at the 274 dead. Some number of that 274 were likely Hamas — but we are likely talking about give or take 200 dead civilians.

    I’m not opposed to Israel trying to rescue hostages, and trying the rescue the rescuers when that goes wrong, but that’s a hell of a lot of dead.

    And Israel has been very loose with risks to civilian populations. I expect that this was just shit going very wrong, though.

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  26. Kevin says:

    @Andy:

    Back in reality, Israel went in covertly (they did not use an aid vehicle – that is Hamas propaganda)

    According to the Washington Post, the IDF went in in at least two vehicles, one a box truck similar to the ones that Israel uses/allows to bring goods into Gaza, and one that was a white Mercedes truck, as often is used to move furniture and the like. It may be just semantics, but at least the first of those sounds like an aid truck to me; at this point, anything that looks like it is carrying civilian goods is an aid truck. The Israeli military denies this, but there is video that seems to corroborate the reports.

    @Andy:

    The raid was intended to rescue hostages, not to solve any problems in the Gaza or West bank. No one has suggested it was intended to do anything else, so this is a strange criticism to make.

    No, it’s not, because this is the point that almost everyone opposed to this war is making: Israel is dealing with long-term, political problems by attempting to bomb their way to a solution. And they can’t, short of somehow removing the Palestinian population. They could completely destroy Hamas, somehow, and it wouldn’t solve the actual problem, and their current actions are just setting the groundwork for Hamas 2.0.

    @Andy:

    Hamas – intentionally – makes it impossible to accomplish what you’re suggesting. Secondly, your comparison is apples and oranges. This is a war and is far different from a handful of assassinations against targets that were not prepared. Hamas IS prepared, and you simply can’t use the methods of clandestine assassinations in foreign territory in a war.

    I’m not saying to use clandestine assassinations to win a war; I’m saying they can’t meet their stated objectives via a war, and if they actually wanted to destroy Hamas’ leadership, they could, and will almost certainly have to, use targeted assassinations to do so, given that Hamas’ leadership isn’t in Gaza. Killing soldiers buys Israel nothing if the leaders are free to rebuild, and another generation has been radicalized and has now even less to loose than the previous one did.

    The USA has a great deal of experience in fighting, and loosing, insurgencies. You can have overwhelming firepower, every technical advantage, win every battle, and still loose the war. Hamas has already won the war, from Hamas’ point of view. That there’s a state of conflict at all is a victory for Hamas. Yes, Hamas is committing all sorts of perfidy and violations of the laws of war, and it doesn’t matter, because they win when Israel kills Palestinians.

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  27. Kevin says:

    @Kazzy:

    It would seem to me that if Israeli forces could be surgical enough to extract the hostages unharmed, they could be surgical enough to not kill kids. No?

    No, because it appears that things went wrong during the rescue, and the bulk of the civilian casualties happened when Israeli airplanes were providing cover for the soldiers to extract themselves. And I don’t know. I can’t help but compare this to the raid that killed Bin Laden; it had problems too. Had things gone really horribly wrong, I don’t know what the contingency plans were. Would we have let Pakistan take the SEAL team prisoner? Was what happened part of their planning, or were they expecting everything to go perfectly? Did they decide ahead of time that massive civilian casualties were a reasonable price to pay to prevent more hostages/Israeli deaths, or was there a mad scramble when things went pear-shaped?

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  28. Ken_L says:

    I’m at a bit of a loss to understand why Hamas has kept the hostages alive. They seem to have turned into more of a liability than an insurance policy. If the expectation was that Israel would bargain for their release, it was clearly misconceived. It would surely be more sensible from Hamas’s point of view to release them now because they are more trouble than they are worth. That would allow them to ask why Israel was continuing the conflict.

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  29. Kevin says:

    @Ken_L: I suspect it’s because they still want to use the hostages to bargain for the release of Palestinian prisoners. It’s what they’ve done in the past, and it’s how they gain at least some goodwill/legitimacy with Palestinians. Also, at this point, it’s not clear they can release all the hostages, or even know where all of them are.

    And at some level, Hamas doesn’t care. It’s getting what it wants. Its leadership views essentially everyone in the world as expendable, excepting perhaps the Hamas leadership. They’re the bad guys, and they play the role well. You could probably argue that freeing the hostages and ending the conflict is against Hamas’ desires anyway. That Israeli leadership doesn’t seem to want to end it either is even better; Israel continues to delegitimize itself in the eyes of the world, and Hamas gets to continue the conflict.

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  30. Eusebio says:

    We may never know if this operation went wrong somehow (from the the IDF perspective), or if it was executed to plan except for the loss of one rescuer during the gun battle with Hamas militants guarding the hostages.

    The rescuing force would’ve been expecting resistance on the way out, but was nevertheless able to speed away under heavy air fire. Since the IDF has nearly uncontested air superiority and aerial surveillance capabilities above Gaza, the resulting destruction could’ve been within the scope of the plan. Details regarding this war’s operations have been scarce.

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  31. just nutha says:

    @wr: He’s a guy who cites JKB when it suits his needs. Draw your own conclusions.

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  32. Dawn says:

    This short video from Al Jazeera explains this post beautifully.

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  33. Andy says:

    Getting on a plane and typing on my phone, so apologies for brevity and typos

    @DrDaveT:

    An operation of this kind, with this level of collateral damage, would be absolutely unacceptable to US military forces. I don’t know exactly where they draw the line, but I’m pretty sure it’s a 2-digit number. Are you saying US doctrine in this regard is badly misguided?

    On the contrary, this is exactly what the US would have done and has done.

    This operation was intended as a raid relying on the element of surprise. That was achieved at the first location with the female hostage. The rescue team killed her guards, got her out and exfiltrated without further engagement.

    At the second location with the three male hostages, surprise was not achieved. One of the rescue forces was shot in the initial engagement with the guards and later died. Hamas forces then flooded in to try to prevent them from extracting with the hostages. A large battle thus began and the rescue force got pinned down. This is when Israel used its firepower advantage to prevent the rescue force from being killed and allowing them to escape. That’s certainly when the majority of Palestinians died. This was a battle that Israel clearly had a contingency for, but was not part of the plan.

    Similarly, the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993 was the same dynamic. A small US force went to do a raid and get in and out of the target zone with minimal fighting. As things do in war, that didn’t go to plan and we – the US – killed between 300-700 Somalis while trying to defend and extract US forces. The casualties would have been much higher on the Somali side if the US had fixed wing aircraft available. That was for a raid to nab a mid-level leader, not a rescue operation.

    So the basic assumptions of your comment are simply incorrect. Any nation – to especially including the US – will exercise the right to self defense in a combat situation to protect its own forces. In those situations, collateral damage concerns go way down the priority list. You may not like to hear it, but military forces everywhere prioritize the safety of their own forces above others in a war. The US is no different and neither is Israel. Once there was a ground battle – even one that Israel wanted to avoid, Israel or any country will use its combat advantages to protect that force and complete the mission, which is what happened.

    So the whole notion that one can predict the ratio of hostages killed to others prior to launching this kind of operation is simply mistaken and not possible, so your comment is entirely incorrect.

    What’s your alternative? Just not attempt a rescue operation because something might go wrong? Once the battle was engaged, should Israeli force just surrender or let themselves get killed to prevent some unknown number of Palestinians from dying?

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  34. Andy says:

    @wr:

    I don’t defend everything they do.

    At the same time, much of the criticism of Israel’s conduct in the war is, at best, ignorant and at worst, simping for Hamas.

    This event is a perfect example. The people who look at 274, assume they are all civilians, and the look at 4 hostages and declare out of ignorance or spite that is unfair, that the US would never do that, etc. are not only wrong but playing into Hamas and anti-Israel propaganda.

    @Gustopher:

    Why do we believe that the hostages were going to be executed?

    They’ve had them for more than six months, you would think that if Hamas was just going to execute them, they would have done so already.

    Because it’s very common for groups like Hamas to have standing orders to kill hostages rather than allow them to be rescued.

    Even law enforcement in hostage situations doesn’t just assume that captors won’t kill hostages when a rescue attempt is made. That’s why these operations emphasize surprise.

    This isn’t Israeli propaganda, it’s SOP.

    I actually carefully did not place the word civilian at the 274 dead. Some number of that 274 were likely Hamas — but we are likely talking about give or take 200 dead civilians.

    You specifically said it was a ratio of civilian casualties to hostages rescued:

    274 dead to rescue 4 doesn’t sound like a reasonable ratio of civilian casualties to hostages rescued

    Thanks for the clarification though.

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  35. Kazzy says:

    @Kevin: So the air cover could discern who was Israel and who was not but could not then discern who among the “not Israeli” group was a child or non-combatant? Sorry but if you want me to accept that the only way to have rescued these hostages was to suffer this many deaths, you’re going to need to show more work than that. Did they simply rain fire down on every building between where the Israel forces were and where they were trying to go?

    It seems rather obvious that within this conflict, the Israeli government and military leadership sees everyone in the “not Israeli” group as A) indistinguishable from one another, B) much lesser than those in the Israeli group, and C) therefore, completely expendable as they pursue their aims.

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  36. Michael Reynolds says:

    The essential difference between @Andy and @wr and @Gustopher, et al, is that Andy has an idea how war works, and the rest of you only know how war works on TV or in movies.

    Just like the essential difference between me and those same people is that I did not just discover the Middle East seven months ago.

    It’s so much easier to criticize when you know absolutely fuck-all about anything and are motivated only by a desperate need to parade your cost-free virtue.

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  37. DK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    The essential difference between @Andy and @wr and @Gustopher, et al, is that Andy has an idea how war works

    Or how war doesn’t work, given the bang up job the American war machine has done over the past several decades. Yikes.

    When the experts repeatedly fail, appeal to expertise and their supposedly superior understanding doesn’t quite land.

    The legacy of those who know about war is Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. So it might just be time to jettison that worldview and listen to those who don’t sneer at virtue — instead of encouraging Israel to repeat mistakes America already made, but that stubborn old men yelling at clouds refuse to learn from.

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  38. Kevin says:

    @Kazzy: There are ways of soldiers identifying others on their side; they aren’t foolproof, which is why you have friendly fire. That’s as far as it extends; unless the other side is willing to wear uniforms, there’s no good way of separating combatant from non-combatant; at some level, that’s the definition of an insurgent. Once the Israeli military had decided, either in advanced planning or on the spur of the moment, that they were going to provide the assault team with cover, the civilian casualties were a given.

    @Michael Reynolds: Seriously? On a website run by a dean of the USMC Command College, founded during the Iraq War, that calls itself an “online journal of politics and foreign affairs analysis”, you’re going to accuse everyone who disagrees with you of being ignorant of war, and having never paid attention to the Middle East? Hard men have to make hard choices, and “you can’t handle the truth!”, yes?

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  39. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Kevin:
    Dude, both @Andy and I are in alignment with Joyner on Gaza. I was referring to other commenters, not to James.

    @DK:
    Wars are about the most complicated, difficult human activity. Very few other activities have to be carried out while being shot at. The logistics are insanely difficult, balancing the safety of your own people vs. the lives of civilians, anticipating the enemy, etc… and etc…

    The idea that the US military failed in recent wars is bullshit. Policy failed, and soldiers don’t make policy. It was not the US Army that said, ‘Let’s occupy a mountainous, landlocked country we can only reach via various unstable neighbors and turn it into Vermont.’ Nor did the Marines insist we liberate Kuwait, or invade Iraq. The military was amazingly effective.

    Our intellectual elites on the Left are completely alienated from the military, don’t learn military history, don’t serve in the military but have clung to Vietnam as if that was the only war, ever. I’m sorry but your complete and total misunderstanding of the military makes my point. You don’t know WTF you’re talking about.

    ETA: Here’s a case in point: the attempt to build a dock for humanitarian supples in Gaza. A military failure? No, a policy failure. It was politicians who decided no US boot should so much as touch the beach. Absent that policy the US military could land enough food to give Gaza an obesity epidemic.

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  40. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Yes, Michael, the fact that I disagree with you proves that I only discovered the ME seven months ago and know nothing about anything. I am a moron who reacts based on nothing but emotion, because there is simply no way that anyone in the world could ever hold an opinion that isn’t identical to yours.

    Do you ever actually listen to yourself?

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  41. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “The essential difference between @Andy and @wr and @Gustopher, et al, is that Andy has an idea how war works, and the rest of you only know how war works on TV or in movies.”

    Remember, boys and girls, the only people allowed to have an opinion on a war are those who serve, or have served, in the military. (And MR, of course, who gets a buy…)

    We must leave all decisions regarding war and peace to the military. No civilians are entitled to even hold a thought on the subject. Only this way will we achieve lasting peace.

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  42. DK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    You don’t know WTF you’re talking about.

    Pfft. Your knowledge of the military (and the left) is based on nothing more than Fox News stereotypes that have fried your brain. That you are ignorant of the existence of liberal military families shows how little you know about “tHe LeFt” and about the military.

    It will be a cold day in hell when I — whose parents met and married on military base, whose father and brother are both on 100% VA disability, who has cousins and uncles and nieces and nephews currently serving here and abroad, and family who’ve served in almost every campaign this country has prosecuted at least since World War I, if not longer — takes seriously ham-fisted hot air about understanding military history and culture from you: a chickenhawk keyboard-warrior kid-lit author LMFAO.

    Get over yourself, washed-up crank.

    A military failure? No, a policy failure.

    Not a failure at all. A good effort and a positive sign affirming that we were smart to elect a commander-in-chief that doesn’t sneer at virtue, and that we are better off as a people now that “they who know about war” are retired.

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  43. Michael Reynolds says:

    @DK:
    1) I was raised in a military family.
    2) I am very well aware of liberals in the military, by soldier father tried to keep me out of Vietnam and voted for McGovern.
    3) I study history and know a fair amount specifically about military history.
    4) Including the fact that I wrote an 1800 page trilogy set in WW2, which involved many hundreds of hours of reading and watching first person narratives, reading dozens of books, spending a lot of time in museums, visiting battlefields, firing the relevant small arms.
    5) Also spent a fairly insane amount of energy researching the Civil War for a series I decided not to write.
    6) I am certainly the only person you know who was personally threatened by US military intelligence. (Long story.)

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  44. Eusebio says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Good points regarding policymaking versus warfighting.

    However, I wouldn’t call the humanitarian pier at the Gaza beach a failure. Yes, the mission was made more challenging by not having US boots on the beach. It was a bad PR magnet when it was damaged and had to be withdrawn for repairs, and the beached modules were certainly more difficult to retrieve without adequate shore support, but the JLOTS modular pier is capable of operating at that location and prevailing sea states the vast majority of the time.

    In fact, the pier was in place near the beach used by Israel for hostage evacuation, and the it is operational today.

    The pier was repaired in the Israeli port of Ashdod before being brought back to the Gaza coast and reestablished on Friday.

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  45. Michael Reynolds says:

    @DK:
    And just for future reference, I don’t opine on things I don’t know anything about. Macroeconomics? I know next to nothing. Science broadly? Same. Do you see me arguing with @Kathy over air travel or associated tech? Nope, cuz she knows, and I don’t. I could go on at great length about the many things I don’t opine on because I don’t know enough to do so. You won’t even find me opining on literary theory because I know nothing about it. Music? Same. Athletics? Same.

    What I do know: the business and practical aspects of writing, story more generally, travel at both the impoverished and wealthy levels, fine dining, restaurants broadly, criming and the fugitive life, and yes, history.

    For the record I’ve written a lot of kidlit, but also adult books, ad copy, movie scripts, restaurant and TV reviews, feature writing and even reporting from overseas.

    I’ve also been a stock clerk, waiter and headwaiter, restaurant manager, law library grunt and law librarian, a bowling alley pin-jammer, an editorial cartoonist, home and office cleaner, house painter, resident manager and other jobs I’ve forgotten. I’ve lived in 15 states and three foreign countries, more than 50 homes, attended 13 schools in my 10 years plus one day of schooling, and despite that bizarre and peripatetic life, I’ve managed to have a great marriage and banked millions of dollars writing more than 150 books across every genre from Sci Fi to fantasy to alternate history to humor to romance.

    Whatever law school you managed to get into has infinitely lower barriers to entry than writing, a field in which, despite starting in my 30’s with zero education and zero contacts and toilet-scrubbing as my launch pad, I’ve managed to earn partner-at-a-decent-sized law firm money for 36 years.

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  46. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Eusebio:
    Was it? I am glad to hear it.

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  47. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Oh, totally forgot doing media for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, for which I got a Polly Award.

    ETA: Also forgot co-producing two feature-length documentary films.

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  48. DrDaveT says:

    @Andy:

    On the contrary, this is exactly what the US would have done and has done.

    …when they screw up. They would never do this if it were the expected outcome. As it was in this case.

    What’s your alternative? Just not attempt a rescue operation because something might go wrong?

    Duh. Correct. If the predictable outcome of the rescue is “four hostages rescued, dozens of Hamas militants killed, and a few hundred civilian refugees also killed” then the US doesn’t do it. Especially if the civilian refugees are, say, Puerto Ricans. (The US has no real equivalent to “occupied non-citizen population” but that will do for comparison.)

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  49. Andy says:

    @DrDaveT:

    the outcome only looks predictable to you in hindsight.

    Military operations are inherently risky – that is the inherent nature of the activity. No one can know for sure what would happen and decision makers have to look at a plan, judge the risks and decide whether to go. This goes for any operation. If your risk calculus is that Israel should never do anything where civilians might be harmed, the what you’re saying – whether you intend to or not – is that Israel can’t do most any operation because Hamas always ensures that civilians will be put at risk. Essentially, you’re ceding the war to Hamas entirely.

    So Israel can’t rescue hostages, Israel can’t attack Hamas. The alternatives presented here by many of Israel simply being more careful and despite the way Hamas operates (rarely mentioned or condemned) is a fantasy or a “ceasefire” in which Hamas gets most all of its demands. The US can’t do it, and hasn’t done it. See all the examples I’ve given before from Manila to Mosul to Falluja.

    @DK:

    Yes, well there is a difference between war, which is a political activity, and war fighting, which is not.

    I would just note that no one has offered an viable alternative for Israel to get its hostages back beyond effectively surrendering to Hamas’ demands and allowing them to win this war and come out in a stronger position or fantasy solutions like the notion of conducting immaculate warfare in urban terrain against an enemy like Hamas – a standard that no military in existence can meet.

    Anyway, I’m in Stockholm now and will be very busy for work and play, so this is likely my last comment for a while.

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  50. Ken_L says:

    @Andy:

    no one has offered an viable alternative for Israel to get its hostages back beyond effectively surrendering to Hamas’ demands and allowing them to win this war

    I can’t help observing that this demonstrates Andy’s priors that any concessions to Hamas would constitute a “surrender” by Israel, and naturally we should all be appalled at the very idea.

    The factual situation is that many of us see no significant moral difference between Israel and Hamas, we believe Israel’s invasion of Gaza was an atrocious war crime, and we find the suggestion laughable that anyone should regard negotiations with Hamas as “surrender”.

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  51. Andy says:

    @Ken_L:

    For the record, I’m not against negotiations, They are inevitable and have been ongoing.

    I’m opposed to the idea of Hamas winning this war and being rewarded for 10/7 and its constant and endemic tactics that are black letter war crimes. No one should want those to be legitimatized. If you are OK with allowing Hamas’ tactics to be effective, thanks in part to people like you who insist that Israel can basically do nothing except give Hamas what it wants or fight Hamas in ways that are literally impossible, then you’re effectively pro-Hamas.

    That you see Israel as morally the same as Hamas speaks volumes. That you claim this moral equivalence while also only criticizing Israel and seeking to limit Israeli action while not doing the same with Hamas also speaks volumes. Whatever your intentions, the effect of your advocacy is pro Hamas.

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  52. SKI says:

    Fact check:
    1. There was no use of an aid truck. There was the user of a truck with Pril commercial branding, per the video broadcast by Al Jazeera. Pril is a dish soap in the region and it was being used to try to exfiltrate without getting into a massive firefight. Under the rules of war, there was no perfidy involved as the civilian truck was not used as a means of attack.
    2. As noted above, there were minimal casualties, and no civilians afaik, until Hamas attacked the retreating hostages and rescue team in the middle of a refugee camp. Israel, like every other country, is allowed under the rules of war to defend its soldiers in a proportional way. Under the rules of war, there is zero question that this was a proportional to a firefight.
    BTW, does anyone have a theory why Israel is wrong to defend itself in a refugee camp but Hamas wasn’t wrong to launch its attack to try to prevent the escape of the rescued civilian hostages in the refugee camp?
    3. We have no information on the ratio of militants to civilians. It is implausible that all or almost all were civilians given that there was an actual firefight going on that had pinned the rescue team down.

    Side note: while MR is incredibly obnoxious and supercilious, he isn’t wrong here. Most of the posters here seem to be making decisions out of ignorance and propaganda and a pre-determined view that Israel is wrong. I have a multiple decade track record of despising Bibi and think he is a slimy, evil piece of shit but many of you are coming across as defending Hamas and that isn’t a place you should want to find yourself.

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