Palestinians massacred in “rescue” operation lauded by US

Damage in Nuseirat refugee camp following an Israeli attack on 8 June.

Omar Ashtawy APA images

While Israelis celebrated the release of four captives secured by the military in Gaza on Saturday, Palestinians mourned hundreds of people killed during the daytime operation.

Palestinian officials said that more than 210 Palestinians were killed and 400 injured in central Gaza on Saturday, including in the area where the Israeli military says it rescued the four captives from two separate apartments blocks in a residential area of Nuseirat refugee camp.

The fresh horror in Nuseirat comes two days after Israel bombed a UN school in the refugee camp where thousands of displaced people were sheltering, killing at least 33.

As of 5 June, the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza had recorded more than 36,500 fatalities and 83,000 injuries since 7 October.

The actual fatality count is likely much higher, with thousands of people missing under the rubble. An unknown number of Palestinians in Gaza have died in a secondary wave of mortality as Israel has destroyed water and sanitation facilities in the territory, giving rise to diseases, all while engineering a famine and destroying the healthcare system.

In Nuseirat refugee camp, “Gazan paramedics and residents said the assault killed scores of people and left mangled bodies of men, women and children strewn around a marketplace and a mosque,” Reuters reported on Saturday.

Abu Obeida, the pseudonymous spokesperson for the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, said that some captives were killed during the operation. Israel has not reported any fatalities among the captives during the raid.

“By committing horrifying massacres the enemy was able to liberate a few of its prisoners but at the same time it killed some of them during the operation,” Abu Obeida said.

“This operation will constitute a major danger to the enemy’s prisoners and will have a negative impact on their conditions and their lives,” he added.


Footage from the raid indicated that Israeli forces infiltrated Nuseirat refugee camp disguised in civilian trucks:

A wounded eyewitness described walking in the street and seeing what he thought was a truck carrying humanitarian aid before armed forces emerged from the vehicle and shot him in the chest and arm:
“The market was full, but then many were shot and lying headless on the ground,” the injured man recounted of the raid.

Israel has repeatedly accused Hamas of hiding among civilians to justify its targeting and destruction of civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, in Gaza, while apparently using trucks disguised as humanitarian aid to carry out an operation that killed scores of civilians.

Feigning civilian or non-combatant status, as Israeli forces appear to have done, and hardly for the first time, may constitute the war crime of perfidy under international humanitarian law.

Giving further rise to concerns of perfidy, the temporary floating pier built by the American military appears to have been used in the Nuseirat raid:
The plan for the US pier on the Gaza shoreline was revealed in a surprise announcement by President Joe Biden during his State of the Union address in early March and was framed as an effort to increase humanitarian aid into the besieged territory, despite its limited capacity in comparison to the already established land crossings.

The pier took its first delivery on 17 May and only functioned at partial capacity, on and off, for a few days before a storm damaged the modular pier around a week later.

The controversial pier is part of a corridor that the Israeli military has cut through the center of the Gaza Strip, south of Gaza City, effectively splitting northern and southern Gaza and allowing Israeli forces to more easily carry out raids in the center of the Gaza Strip.

The US Department of Defense said on Friday that repairs to the pier had been completed with the assistance of the Israeli military, raising questions whether the Nuseirat operation was delayed until after the pier was rebuilt.

American role

Barak Ravid, the Axios writer who is frequently fed information by Israel’s military and intelligence apparatus, reported that Nuseirat operation “was supposed to happen a few weeks ago but was canceled for operational reasons,” citing unnamed Israeli officials.

Israeli military spokesperson Daniel Hagari said that hundreds of soldiers were involved in the Nuseirat operation and a police officer was critically wounded during the raid; he was later reported to have died from his injuries.

Axios revealed that “the US hostage cell in Israel supported the effort to rescue the four hostages,” citing an unnamed US official.

The White House released a statement from national security advisor Jake Sullivan in which he said that Washington “is supporting all efforts to secure the release of hostages still held by Hamas, including American citizens.”

“This includes through ongoing negotiations or other means,” Sullivan added.

Sullivan’s statement on the “successful operation” commends “the work of the Israeli security services that conducted this daring operation” and makes no mention of the scores of Palestinians killed.

The White House statement was only one of many from Western leaders celebrating the rescue of the four Israeli captives without any mention of the Palestinians killed in the process.

Hamas condemned what it called a “horrific massacre against innocent civilians” in Nuseirat camp and other locations in central Gaza and the reported American involvement.

In a statement published on its Telegram channel, Hamas said that it “proves once again the complicity of the US administration” the complicity of the US in war crimes in Gaza.

“Doomsday” in central Gaza

Palestinians residing in the areas of central Gaza attacked on Saturday described “doomsday” scenes like those from a horror film, with quadcopters shooting at civilians in Deir al-Balah while Israel drops bombs from the sky.

Video recorded in Nuseirat refugee camp shows Israeli-fired missiles striking a residential area.

One graphic video shows around a dozen dead and injured people lying on a street in Nuseirat refugee camp, and other videos show people arriving with severe injuries to overcrowded medical facilities.

Yet another graphic video shows a man holding a young boy with a severe head wound standing among shrouded corpses outside a hospital. When the child suddenly moves, the surprised man runs with the boy in his arms towards the hospital entrance.

Videos and photos show that another boy was killed with his last meal still in his mouth and a man was shot dead while cooking on a stove.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, one of the few still functioning in Gaza, was overwhelmed with casualties from Nuseirat and was being run by a sole generator on Saturday while Israeli bombing further threatened its ability to provide urgently needed medical care.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society said that it was transporting injured people from hospitals in central Gaza to a field hospital due to the threat of Israeli bombing:

Freed captives “in good health”

The four rescued captives – Noa Argamani, 25, Almog Meir Jan, 21, Andrey Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 40 – were all captured at the Supernova music festival during Hamas’ raid on 7 October last year.

During her captivity, Hamas released two videos showing signs of life from Argamani. The most recent video, published on 31 May, features Argamani’s voice imploring Israelis to put pressure on Netanyahu’s war cabinet, warning that “time is running out.”

The four former captives “were taken to hospital for medical checks and were in good health,” Reuters reported, citing the Israeli military.

This is in stark contrast to Palestinians from Gaza who have been arbitrarily detained by Israel in recent months and released with newly amputated limbs removed without anesthesia and their bodies bearing marks of torture.

Around 250 people were captured in Israel on 7 October and brought to Gaza. More than 100 were released by Hamas as part of a prisoner exchange deal in November.

Two Israeli-Argentinian men were rescued by Israeli forces in Rafah, southern Gaza, in February.

Some 75 Palestinians were killed during that operation as Israel pounded Rafah, where people displaced from other areas of Gaza had sought shelter, in order to create a diversion from the military raid.

A captured Israeli soldier was reportedly rescued by the military in late October.

With the rescue of the four captives on Saturday, a total of seven Israelis and foreign nationals held in Gaza since 7 October have been freed by the Israeli military. Far more regained their freedom through an agreement negotiated with Hamas.

Many families of the captives who remain in Gaza are urgently pressing the Israeli government to secure another exchange deal.

Of the 116 captives who are believed to remain in Gaza, Israeli authorities have declared around a third of them dead, without acknowledging that the most likely cause of death is Israeli bombing.

Analyst Tariq Kenney-Shawa said that the lives of the children killed in Nuseirat on Saturday could have been spared.

“Israel could [have agreed] to a permanent ceasefire and hostage exchange at any time” during the past eight months, Kenney-Shawa stated, “but dead Palestinians are their main objective.”

Some observers said that Saturday’s rescue operation would endanger the captives who remain in Gaza, since Netanyahu’s government has signaled that Israel will not engage in another prisoner exchange and will only secure the captives’ release by force.

“For Hamas, this approach means the captives are becoming a net loss: they have to allocate great resources to keep them but with no potential upside,” according to the Israeli writer Alon Mizrahi.

“They know by now, as [does] everybody else, that the purpose of Israel’s operation is to exterminate and ethnically cleanse the entirety of Gaza’s population” before doing the same to Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank.

Biden’s “Israeli” proposal

The US State Department announced on Friday that Antony Bliken, Washington’s top diplomat, would return to the region in the coming days to push Israel and Hamas to accept a three-phase ceasefire and prisoner exchange proposal put forward by President Joe Biden last week.

The US has also circulated a draft resolution backing Biden’s proposal at the UN Security Council, where it has vetoed multiple resolutions calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Biden presented the proposal as if it was an Israeli initiative, only for that claim to be immediately undermined by Netanyahu.

Hamas has not agreed to the plan outlined by Biden, saying that it required clear guarantees that the deal would result in a complete end of the war in Gaza and a full withdrawal of Israeli troops from the territory.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a senior Hamas official, told Reuters that while the group welcomed “Biden’s ideas,” the draft resolution circulated at the Security Council “has no mention of ending the aggression or the withdrawal.”

Reuters paraphrased Abu Zuhri as saying that “Hamas was committed to its 5 May proposal which was based on an end to the fighting and an Israeli withdrawal, a swap deal and a lifting of the blockade of the enclave” – demands consistently maintained by the group throughout the past several months.

Meanwhile, Israeli opposition leader Benny Gantz postponed the anticipated announcement of his resignation from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war cabinet on Saturday.

Gantz had given Netanyahu a deadline of 8 June to deliver a “day-after” strategy for Gaza, where Netanyahu vows to press on until it achieves “total victory” – a goal criticized as “unidentified” (he may have meant to say “undefined”) by Biden during the announcement of his proposal last week.

In an interview published by Time magazine on Tuesday, Biden said there was “every reason for people” to draw the conclusion that Netanyahu was prolonging the war in Gaza for his own aims.

Jon Elmer contributed background reporting on the US pier.




Western media is celebrating the rescue of 4 Israeli hostages, while the death of hundreds of innocent Palestinians during the operation is barely acknowledged. No mention of the excellent health and condition of the Israeli hostages. No mention that Netanyahu could have negotiated their release by freeing interned Palestinians being "held hostage" in Israeli jails.

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Maureen Clare Murphy

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Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.