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Hamas Hamas Hostages Israel Terrorism

British military officer says civilian death toll in Israeli hostage rescue operation ‘difficult to avoid’ 

Hamas hostage Noa Argamni embracing her father after being rescued by Israeli troops. (Source – Israeli Army/Handout via Reuters)

A British former military intelligence officer has said that the high civilian death toll in the Israeli hostage rescue operation would have been difficult to avoid.

Colonel Philip Ingram, a former member of the Intelligence Corps and a NATO planner, said the involvement of civilians in the detention of the hostages meant that they had become legitimate targets.

He spoke out amid the growing international criticism surrounding the rescue operation.

Hamas claimed that over 200 Palestinians were killed and wounded in the military operation but did not distinguish between civilians and terrorists in this figure, while the Israeli Government said there were less than 100 causalities in what was a “high-risk, complex mission” based on “precise intelligence”. 

The United Nations criticised Israel’s military rescue operation in the Gaza Strip, saying it had caused too many civilian casualties and that its tactics were illegitimate. 

Israeli officials reported that the extraction team came under intense fire during the operation, resulting in a firefight in the densely populated Nuseirat neighbourhood. According to an IDF spokesperson, Hamas forces launched rocket-propelled grenades at the extraction teams and hostages from within civilian buildings.

Colonel Ingram, who helped plan counter-terrorist operations, told National Security News: “It is always a difficult task balancing off the risks and collateral damage assessment around any military operation.

“There are two elements – necessity – it is a legitimate military target, that is set under international law, secondly proportionality, is the rush and potential collateral damage proportional to the military objective – this isn’t defined and is a politico/military judgement call.

“Given the rescued Israeli hostages were being held hostage in Gaza’s Palestinian family homes with one, a journalist and another a doctor – the lines between civilian and military have been even more blurred by Hamas – once committed to an operation the aim is minimum force.

“This was a massively difficult rescue operation, and it is clear civilians were complicit in the crime – the reported casualty numbers are high but I would have difficulty seeing how they could be reduced. The domestic political gain by saving four kidnapped and likely tortured Israeli citizens, but at an equally huge cost.

“There is no moral equivalence between civilians being killed as a consequence of a legitimate military operation and civilians being molested and murdered as part of a frenzied attack as we saw on 07 October”.

The IDF Hostage Rescue Operation, ‘Operation Arnon’

Noa Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 22, Shlomi Ziv, 41, and Andrey Kozlov, 27, were rescued by the IDF in two separate locations in a complex daytime operation in Nuseirat, Gaza. (IDF)
Chief Inspector Arnon Zamora died from wounds sustained during the rescue of the four hostages from the Gaza Strip, 08 June, 2024. (Source – Israel Police).
IDF footage of former Gaza hostage Noa Argamani being evacuated in a Black Hawk helicopter. 08 June, 2024. (Source – IDF)

The rescue mission, carried out by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), on Saturday, successfully freed four Israeli hostages: Noa Argamani (25), Almog Meir (21), Andrey Kozlov (27), and Shlomi Ziv (40). 

These hostages had all been abducted by Hamas from the Supernova festival on 07 October and were held in separate locations within Gaza. The operation, described as highly complex and meticulously planned, involved simultaneous strikes on two buildings in the Nuseirat Camp. 

Daniel Hagari IDF Spokesman said Hamas has been holding hostages inside civilian buildings, and Israeli intelligence was able to pinpoint two of these buildings in Nuseirat where families were staying with armed guards inside.

The rescue of hostages took place as the war entered its ninth month amid ongoing efforts for a ceasefire and hostage release deal and is being described as the most successful rescue of hostages by the IDF in this war yet.

Criticism at Hamas from people in Gaza

The bloodshed on the ground has sparked mounting criticism at Hamas from people in Gaza. Hassan Omar, 37, voiced his dismay over the loss of lives in Israeli strikes, telling the BBC: “For each Israeli hostage they could have freed 80 Palestinian prisoners and without any bloodshed – [that] is a million times better than losing 100 dead.

“My message to Hamas is stopping the loss is part of the gain, we should get rid of those who control us from Qatar hotels.”

Hamas’ Allegations & Propaganda Effort

In a renewed attempt at psychological warfare, Hamas claimed that three Israeli hostages, including a US citizen, were killed by the IDF during the rescue mission. 

The allegations surfaced in a statement released by Hamas’ armed wing, aiming to tarnish the success of Israel’s hostage rescue efforts.

The Hamas statement reads, “In exchange for them [the four Israeli hostages], your own army killed three of your own captives in the same attack; one of them holds a US citizenship”.

This assertion was coupled with a video purportedly showing the aftermath of the IDF operation, accusing the Israeli government of sacrificing some hostages to save others.

The latest video from Hamas, featuring dramatic footage and inflammatory rhetoric, is designed to sow doubt and fear among the Israeli public. It claims that the IDF committed a massacre in the Nuseirat Camp, showing images of wounded Palestinian children to bolster its narrative. The video concludes with a stark warning: “Your captives will not be released unless our prisoners are freed. Time is running out”.

Peter Lerner, an IDF military spokesman denied three Israelis were killed on Saturday during the operation that freed the four captives.

“This is just another part of Hamas’ propaganda war, their attempt to try and create concern within Israel,” Lerner told the UK’s Sky News.

“When we listen to what Hamas is saying, I say take it with a pinch of salt. Everything they say.”

Previous Psychological Warfare Tactics 

This is not the first instance of Hamas using psychological warfare against Israel. On 09 October, Hamas spokesperson Abu Obeida threatened to kill civilian hostages for every Israeli airstrike. 

In May, Hamas falsely claimed that a soldier was killed, and his body was kidnapped in Gaza, a claim the IDF later debunked. Historically, Hamas has often attributed the deaths of hostages to Israeli air raids rather than admitting to executions.

The Raid’s Execution and Aftermath

The rescue mission, executed with surgical precision, took place at midday to maximise surprise. Israeli intelligence had pinpointed the hostages’ locations, and commandos had rehearsed the operation extensively. During the raid, Chief Inspector Arnon Zamora of an elite police commando unit was mortally wounded. The intense firefight and subsequent bombardment during the extraction led to significant Palestinian casualties, reportedly over 200.

The IDF has not officially responded to Hamas’ allegations. Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military spokesperson, emphasised the operation’s success and the continuing efforts to rescue remaining hostages. He acknowledged that a cease-fire deal would bring home more hostages than military operations, but said Israeli forces need to “create conditions” conducive to bringing them home. 

Hamas and other militants are still holding some 120 hostages, around a third of whom are believed to have died. 

“We are doing things that are unimaginable, and we will keep on doing things that are unimagined,” Hagari said.

Hamas’ latest claims must be viewed in the context of its broader strategy to undermine Israeli morale and international support. By accusing Israel of killing its own hostages, Hamas aims to create internal divisions and question the IDF’s competence. 

As the war continues, the psychological dimension of warfare plays a key role. Hamas’ allegations highlight the brutal and intricate nature of the hostage crisis, underscoring the critical challenge faced by Israel in navigating the delicate balance between military action and the safety of its citizens. The truth behind these claims remains shrouded in the fog of war, with Hamas seeking to leverage the narrative to their advantage.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the mission a success saying, “The entire nation salutes the brave fighters who risked their lives today to save lives. Once again, you have proven that Israel does not surrender to terrorism and acts with creativity and courage that knows no bounds to bring home the hostages,” he said.


  • Isabella Egerton

    Isabella Egerton is a leading intelligence specialist and investigator focused on state led level security investigations. She has a proven track record in running complex multi-jurisdictional intelligence projects around the globe.

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Isabella Egerton is a leading intelligence specialist and investigator focused on state led level security investigations. She has a proven track record in running complex multi-jurisdictional intelligence projects around the globe.