IDF Spokesman Grilled on Palestinian Deaths During Hostage Rescue

An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) rescue mission recovered four hostages from Hamas custody on Saturday but killed dozens of Palestinians and injured hundreds. ABC’s Martha Raddatz interviewed an IDF spokesperson and questioned him about the number of civilians killed and injured during the operation.

“Part of this mission were the air strikes,” Raddatz said. “We saw buildings destroyed in a civilian area, in broad daylight. There were people on the street during this attack through the air. Did you factor in the loss of so many Palestinians in this operation?”

When the rescue operation occurred, it was in the middle of the morning, and many people were out shopping at a market nearby. “[It was] something we never witnessed before, maybe 150 rockets fell in less than 10 minutes, while we were running away more fell on the market,” Nidal Abdo, a local resident who was close to where the attacks occurred, told CNN.

“We don’t know how many casualties were caused in the strike in the release and rescue operation,” Lerner told Raddatz. “And I’d be very cautious at accepting any figures and numbers that Hamas are putting out.”

But Raddatz pointed out that while Hamas is saying that 274 deaths resulted from the operation, even the IDF has acknowledged deaths occurred, with an estimated count of fewer than 100 Palestinians dead.

“That’s a significant amount of casualties. Did they come from those air strikes in broad daylight?” Raddatz asked Lerner.

“Every civilian life lost in this war is a tragedy,” he said. “Every civilian life lost in this war is a result of how Hamas has operated. Let’s think about, just for a moment, where they were holding the hostages. Within civilian houses. Within people’s apartments — in the same apartment they were being held where the families that owned the apartments. This exemplifies specifically how Hamas operating.”

The hostages were being held in two apartments in civilian buildings approximately 200 meters away from each other.

Lerner added that forces trying to rescue the four hostages — Noa Argamani, Almog Meir, Andrey Kozlov and Shlomi Ziv — “came under extensive attack in an attempt to kill both them and the hostages.”

But Raddatz continued to press Lerner on the necessity of the air strikes. “And is that the reason for the air strikes? Tell me why those air strikes were necessary, why buildings were destroyed in that attack?”

Lerner said that IDF forces “came under fire from a 360-degree threat: RPGs, AK-47s, explosive devices on the way, mortar rounds” before blaming civilian casualties on “how Hamas is battling us on the battleground.”

“Would you carry out a similar rescue mission to get the other 116 hostages, no matter the cost to civilians in Gaza?” Raddatz asked.

“There can be a rescue mission like what happened yesterday. But there could also have been negotiations that create the opportunity,” Lerner replied. “Our role is to create the conditions either way, that Hamas realizes that they should give back the hostages, they should set the hostages free.”

According to The Jerusalem Post, Hamas released a message stating that other Israeli hostages were killed by IDF forces during the rescue mission. “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,” Hamas said in a statement.

Israel and Hamas are currently engaged in negotiations to reach a ceasefire agreement, but Saturday’s attack could mark a setback in those talks. One Egyptian official with knowledge of the negotiations told CNN that the rescue mission will have a “negative effect.”

“[It] won’t be easy,” the Egyptian official said.

U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan called the civilian deaths and injuries “tragic” and encouraged Hamas to accept the ceasefire deal that President Joe Biden has put forth.


“The best way to get all of the hostages home and to protect Palestinian civilians is to end this war. And the best way to end this war is for Hamas to say yes to the deal President Biden announced and that Israel has accepted,” Sullivan said on CNN Sunday. That agreement includes a permanent ceasefire, a total withdrawal of Israel’s military from Gaza, and a prisoner exchange, among other conditions.

Meanwhile, in Gaza, aid workers have said that military operations make it exceedingly difficult for them to deliver assistance and necessary supplies. “Medical equipment, medications, we haven’t been able to get. It’s been the same issue with fuel,” Karin Huster, a French-American trauma nurse and medical coordinator for Doctors Without Borders in Gaza, tells Rolling Stone. “It’s been super challenging… And soon it will be impossible for us to work.”

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