Civilian casualties in Israel hostage rescue. But what is a civilian?

Civilians, in my universe, also do not typically lock up hostages in their homes. Why is the west pretending the terrorists are innocents?

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Tel Aviv — It was early Saturday afternoon when the messages started coming. Like rapid fire. “Four hostages have been rescued. Alive.”

Not long after, once the rescue helicopter had lifted off — managing to evade anti-aircraft fire — their names were released: Noa Argamani, Andrei Kozlov, Shlomi Ziv and Almog Meir Jan.

Argamani has become something of an iconic figure, having been captured on a video of her abduction on October 7 that went viral globally. Terror seared on her face, she screamed for her partner, Avinatan Or, 30, who was being force-marched, bound, to Gaza. Utterly helpless. He remains in Hamas hell.

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Argamani’s mother, Liora, has been dying of stage four brain cancer. She has lost her ability to speak and clung to life in the desperate hope that she would see her daughter one last time. Reports today indicate that it is unclear whether Liora understands that Noa is home. Saturday was also the birthday of Noa’s father, Ya’akov Argamani. What an unfathomable present he received.

Noa’s captors were “civilians,” and told her that she was “lucky” to have been placed with them. Early reports today are that among the family members who imprisoned her was a journalist and a physician. “Civilians,” we are told.

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The three male hostages were held together in another “civilian” apartment, 200 metres from Argamani’s prison. One year before his capture, 27-year-old Andrei Kozlov had moved to Israel from St. Petersburg, Russia. He was working as a security guard at the Nova music festival when he was taken hostage. His parents arrived in Israel on Sunday morning to reunite with him.

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Almog Meir Jan, 21, learned shortly after his rescue that his 57-year-old father, Yossi, had passed away a few hours earlier. Family members report that he literally wasted away from grief and anxiety. His funeral was on Sunday.

And 41-year-old Shlomi Ziv, an interior designer, returned to his wife of 17 years, who spent so many nights in the last eight months sitting outside their front door, waiting and hoping for his return.

We know little about “Operation Arnon” other than that it was insanely brilliant and daring. Like — Entebbe level brilliant.

Carried out by the super-elite “Yamam” police unit, the team was led by Arnon Zamora, a 36-year-old father of two who was, by all accounts, remarkably brave and heroic. Zamora had led the fight against Hamas terrorists at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai — just north of the Gaza Strip — on October 7, repelling them. Had he not done so they may well have carried on to the nearby city of Ashkelon to continue their killing spree.

Saturday’s daring daytime raid was preceded by an operation nearby in an area of the Gaza Strip where the IDF had not previously been active. That distraction allowed the special forces to enter both apartments simultaneously. Due to their proximity, there was a huge concern that noise from one attack might forewarn the Hamas “civilian” guards at the other. Entry into the “civilian apartments” was timed with excruciating precision. Distraction and surprise were critical elements for operational success.

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Within moments of the entry into the “civilian apartments,” scores of Hamas terrorists opened fire on the Israelis with machine guns and RPGs. There are reports of many civilian casualties. How many remains unclear. It is surreal reading statement after statement from UN officials and media personalities asserting with confidence that 200, 300, 400 civilians were killed in the operation, many of them children.

These numbers are pulled out of thin air. They are “compiled” by the Hamas Ministry of Health, a title so riddled with paradox it is difficult to know where to begin. In an area that was and is clearly crawling with heavily armed people dressed as civilians, how, exactly, does one define “civilian”? Is a physician who imprisons a hostage in his home a “civilian”? Or is he a terrorist accomplice?

How, also, does the Hamas Ministry of Health determine so quickly — within hours of the rescue operation — whether it was Hamas or Israeli fire that caused so many deaths?

As the Israelis scrambled to reach the rescue vehicle that was to whisk them to a waiting helicopter on the beach, the massive Hamas counterattack intensified. The first getaway vehicle was rendered inoperable. A truck carrying furniture for displaced Gazans, it was driven by a woman dressed in civilian clothing.

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Much has been made of this particular operational detail being a brazen war crime — yet again — on the part of Israel: to commandeer a “humanitarian” vehicle for war. Such treachery!

Relax. It was a truck. Just a truck. Not an UNWRA truck carrying food or medical supplies. A truck loaded with used furniture. A decoy.

The unhinged hysteria directed at every single thing that Israel does has reached such a pitch that one would hope that the citizens of the liberal democracies in this world might snap out of their complacency. This is next-level crazy and it is being orchestrated by Iran, Qatar and their proxies, operating freely, for the time being, throughout the west.

The homes of civilians are not guarded by dozens, perhaps hundreds, of heavily armed terrorists. Civilians, in my universe, also do not typically lock up hostages in their homes. Why is the west pretending that the terrorists are innocents?

Among those who seem to be very confused, morally, is the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell. He lashed out at Israel for causing a “bloodbath.” Logic would suggest that his vitriol might be directed at Hamas for breaching every rule of war, law and morality in launching the October 7 attack and continuing to hold hostages. The moral inversion preening as righteousness has become normalized.

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On Saturday, in defiance of the ceaseless global vilification since October 7, Israelis were jubilant. It felt good. To rescue hostages. To be strong and fearless.

Today, Sunday, we mourn Arnon Zamora, who was buried with the highest honours. And we worry, desperately, about the approximately 115 hostages remaining in hell. Their Hamas torturers will be angry and scared. They will likely be crueler. “Civilians” may reconsider and prefer not to lock up hostages in their homes.

Hamas, of course, is threatening to walk from the negotiating table, whereas, in fact, they have yet to agree to return to it.  Yahya Sinwar, their leader on the ground in Gaza, is likely feeling triumphant. He has the west eating out of his hand, buying his twisted narrative. For him, the hostages are the gift that keeps on giving.

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