White House Confirms ‘Innocent People' Were Killed in Israeli Hostage Rescue Mission

Jake Sullivan also responded to Hamas’s claim that three other hostages, including an American, were killed during the operation.
White House Confirms ‘Innocent People' Were Killed in Israeli Hostage Rescue Mission
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan answers questions during a press briefing at the White House on May 13, 2024. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Lorenz Duchamps
6/10/2024
Updated:
6/11/2024
0:00

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan has confirmed reports that civilians were killed during Israel’s mission to rescue hostages held by the terrorist group Hamas.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced on June 8 that four hostages—Noa Argamani, 26; Almog Meir Jan, 21; Andrey Kozlov, 27; and Shlomi Ziv, 40—were rescued from captivity in the built-up Nuseirat Palestinian refugee camp deep inside the Gaza Strip during a “high-risk” operation.

Mr. Sullivan was asked during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” on June 9 whether the United States could confirm how many people were killed in the operation.

“We, the United States, are not in a position today to make a definitive statement about that. The Israel Defense Forces have put out one number. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry has put out another number,” he said.

“But we do know this. Innocent people were tragically killed in this operation. The exact number we don’t know, but innocent people were killed. And that is heartbreaking. That is tragic.”

His comments come after the IDF reported that fewer than 100 people died in the rescue operation, including 36-year-old Arnon Zamora, an Israeli commander of the National Police Counter-Terrorism Unit.

Israel has since renamed the mission, originally codenamed “Seeds of Summer,” to “Operation Arnon” in recognition of the squad commander.

Meanwhile, Hamas-led health officials at two separate hospitals in the Palestinian enclave said 274 people were killed and around 700 were wounded.

NTD has no way of verifying casualty numbers reported by Hamas, a designated terrorist group.

Additionally, the Gaza Health Ministry does not distinguish between civilians and terrorist militants in its tallies.

Hamas is also known for using human shields and putting civilians at risk to protect its terrorist militants.

Mr. Sullivan, meanwhile, said on June 9 that the situation has made Israel’s military operations in Gaza more difficult.

“Hamas is operating in a way that puts them [civilians] in the crossfire. That holds hostages right in the heart of crowded civilian areas. That puts military emplacements right in the heart of crowded civilian areas,” Mr. Sullivan said.

“But every day that we see more innocent people lost is another horrible, awful tragic day. Our hearts in the United States and across the world, break for that.”

Responding to Hamas claiming, without providing evidence, that three other hostages, including an American, were killed during the rescue operation, Mr. Sullivan said the United States has “not seen that verified or confirmed” while noting that it’s “always a risk.”

“I believe that the Israelis have said that they do not have any information to that effect,” he said. “But of course, that is always a risk, with all of these military operations, hostages have been killed over the last eight months.”

‘Operation Arnon’

Ms. Argamani, who became a widely recognized hostage after a video of her abduction from the Nova Musical Festival on Oct. 7, 2023, was among the first to surface. She was being held in one building while Mr. Jan, Mr. Kozlov, and Mr. Ziv were in another building about 200 yards away.
Posters that read 'Home Now' depicting the portraits of the four rescued Israeli hostages from left: Andrey Kozlov, 27, Noa Argamani, 26, Shlomi Ziv, 41, and Almog Meir Jan, 22, are plastered on a wall in Tel Aviv on June 8, 2024. (Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP via Getty Images)
Posters that read 'Home Now' depicting the portraits of the four rescued Israeli hostages from left: Andrey Kozlov, 27, Noa Argamani, 26, Shlomi Ziv, 41, and Almog Meir Jan, 22, are plastered on a wall in Tel Aviv on June 8, 2024. (Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP via Getty Images)

The four had been moved among different locations but were never held in Hamas’s notorious tunnels. At the time of their rescue, they were in two locked rooms in the Palestinian refugee camp and guarded by Hamas terrorists.

Israeli intelligence figured out where they were and commandos spent weeks practicing the raid on life-size models of the buildings, according to IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.

“It needs to be like a surgical operation, like a brain operation,” he said.

Mr. Hagari said they decided to strike in daylight at about 11 a.m. because it would be the “ultimate surprise,” and to target the two buildings simultaneously. Planners feared that if they hit one first, the captors would hear the commotion and kill the hostages in the other.

The rescue of Ms. Argamani went smoothly, while the team extracting the three other male hostages ran into trouble.

Hamas terrorists armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades opened fire on the rescuers, as Israel called in heavy strikes from land and air as cover so they could evacuate to the coast.

The Israeli rescuers eventually made it to the coast, and video footage released by the IDF showed soldiers walking the hostages along the beach toward the water and helicopters whipping up clouds of sand as they took off.

“Operation Arnon” was the largest recovery effort of living captives since the Hamas-led attack against Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, killed some 1,200 people and led to the abduction of some 250 others, including Americans. A total of seven people have been rescued by Israeli forces so far.

Israel believes that about 120 hostages are still being held in the Palestinian enclave, while at least 43 have been pronounced dead by authorities.

Speaking at a news conference in France on June 8 with French President Emmanuel Macron, President Joe Biden celebrated the return of the Israeli hostages while vowing the United States will not “stop working until all the hostages come home.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Lorenz Duchamps is a news writer for NTD, The Epoch Times’ sister media, focusing primarily on the United States, world, and entertainment news.
Related Topics