Sheldon Kirshner

Israel’s hostage rescue raid in Gaza

Weighed down by the inordinate length and human cost of the Israel-Hamas war, Israelis had good reason to be euphoric on June 8. This was the day when Israeli commandos, disguised as Hamas operatives and Palestinian civilians, rescued four Israeli hostages – Noa Argamani, Almog Meir Jan, Andrei Kozlov and Shlomi Ziv – who had been held captive by Hamas since the October 7 terrorist attack in southern Israel.

Carefully planned after weeks of preparation and superbly executed during a daring raid in Gaza’s Nuseirat refugee camp, the raid gave Israelis a real and much-needed psychological lift.

It came at a cost, however. Arnon Zmora, a senior police officer in a counter-terrorism unit, was shot and seriously injured by Hamas terrorists guarding three of the four hostages. Sadly, he died of his wounds shortly after arriving at a hospital in Israel. In his honor, the rescue mission was renamed Operation Arnon.

According to the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health, 274 Palestinians, including civilians, were killed during the course of the mission. Among the fatalities was Abdallah Aljamal, a journalist and Hamas member in whose flat three of the hostages were held.

The high Palestinian civilian death rate was regrettably unavoidable. Israel had no alternative but to deploy maximum force to free the hostages, who were imprisoned in a densely populated urban area. That they were kept there is hardly surprising. Hamas’ cynical modus operandi is to use civilians as disposable human shields and then self-righteously accuse Israel of war crimes.

Josep Borrell, the European Union’s’ high representative for foreign affairs, surely understands Hamas’ despicable tactic. Yet he issued a needless condemnation of Israel’s raid and misleadingly branded it as a “bloodbath.”

While he initially welcomed the successful rescue of the hostages, he blasted Israel, saying that “reports from Gaza of another massacre of civilians are appalling.” He added, “The bloodbath must end immediately. We condemn this in the strongest terms.”

Borrell’s indignation is understandable, but in all decency, he should have placed the blame squarely on Hamas, which perpetrated the horrific October 7 atrocities – the bloodiest mass murder of Jews in a single day since the Holocaust – and which continues to hide shamelessly behind Palestinian civilians.

Israel had every moral and legal right under international law to launch this raid. Hamas responded ferociously, forcing Israel to take whatever measures were required to rescue the hostages and bring them back safely to their homes and families.

But as Israeli spokesman Daniel Hagari indicated, Israelis should not expect more such raids in the future to free the remaining 116 hostages, alive and dead, still incarcerated by Hamas. “We know that we can’t do operations in order to rescue all of them because there aren’t always the conditions that allow that,” he said.

In the past eight months, Israel has managed to rescue only seven hostages. Several more have been accidentally killed in botched rescue operations.

One hundred and five hostages were released last November under an agreement during which a temporary ceasefire went into effect and hostages were exchanged for Palestinian prisoners. Since then, Israel and Hamas have failed to reach a deal because Hamas insists on a complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza and a permanent truce.

These are conditions that Israel cannot accept if it is serious about destroying Hamas’ military capabilities and ensuring that it never governs Gaza again.

In the meantime, the lives of the hostages still in Gaza could well be in jeopardy, as the spokesman of Hamas’ military wing, Abu Obeida, noted on June 8. “The operation will pose a great danger to the enemy’s prisoners and will have a negative impact on their conditions and lives,” he said menacingly.

From this point forward, the hostages may well be moved from apartment buildings in residential neighborhoods to tunnels where conditions will be far more harsh and where they will be harder to rescue.

The Israeli government should do everything in its power to free the rest of the hostages, but its first priority should be the defeat of Hamas and the affiliated armed groups aligned with it. This may be a difficult idea for some Israelis to swallow, but Israel has no choice but to pursue this crucially important and necessary objective until it is achieved.

Israel cannot and must not end this just war with Hamas still standing.

About the Author
Sheldon Kirshner is a journalist in Toronto. He writes at his online journal,