US Admits Role In Israeli Rescue Operation That Killed Over 200 Palestinians

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IDF/TOI: Shlomi Ziv embraces a soldier as he lands in Israel after being rescued from Hamas captivity, June 8, 2024.

The United States has denied ongoing allegations that it was militarily involved in Israel’s Saturday raid on a central Gaza Hamas stronghold which returned alive four hostages who had been kidnapped on Oct.7.

“Well, the one thing I can say is that there were no U.S. forces, no U.S. boots on the ground involved in this operation. We did not participate militarily in this operation,” US National Security advisor Jake Sullivan said in a CNN interview on Sunday. There have been widespread claims that US special forces advisers were on the ground in some capacity, but this hasn’t been met with confirmation.

However, it has been reported that “A U.S. official told Axios the U.S. hostage cell in Israel supported the effort to rescue the four hostages.” The precise level of ‘support’ and details of this involvement hasn’t been revealed, but The New York Times has so far described that US officials in Israel had been “providing intelligence and other logistical support.”

Despite the freeing of the four hostages being a clearly big ‘win’ and victory for Israel, which the White House also congratulated, it quickly emerged that the refugee camp at Nuseirat suffered a massacre during the operation.

The Palestinian side is saying that at least 274 people were killed, mostly civilians, in the large-scale attacks which reportedly paved the way for the elite counterterror team to go in and rescue the captives while under heavy fire. Israel launched significant strikes on the surrounding area to protect the Israeli elite hostage rescue team.

Sullivan confirmed during the same CNN interview that “innocent people were killed” in the Israeli military operation to free the group of hostages. He didn’t say how many civilian casualties there were, however. “We, the United States, are not in a position today to make a definitive statement about that. The Israeli defense forces have put out one number. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry has put out another number,” Sullivan said.

“But we do know this, Dana. 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,” he added. He then followed by saying something which can be seen as an indirect criticism of Netanyahu’s decision-making. He stressed that Biden “thinks the best way to get all of the hostages home is in a deal where they’re brought out diplomatically, where there’s no need for military operations to get every last hostage out.”

“In the absence of that, without Hamas saying yes to the deal, unfortunately, we are going to continue to see ongoing conflict and military operations in which Israel makes efforts to recover its citizens and, frankly, to recover American citizens. What we would much prefer to see is a cease-fire where the hostages come out peacefully,” he added.

One big claim that neither the US nor Israeli side has acknowledged is that the Israelis transported an elite counter-terror troops into central Gaza by using a humanitarian aid truck from the US-constructed pier as a decoy. Some videos have circulated which purport to show this, but there’s yet to be substantial evidence proving it. But there is some video evidence that the Pentagon’s humanitarian pier location was used by Israel forces, at least as a staging ground area

Middle East Eye explains of the video:

Citing a source familiar with the matter, CNN reported that there were “no US boots on the ground,” adding that the American cell has been in place since 7 October, supporting Israel with information gathering. 

However, videos circulating online on Saturday showed a helicopter taking off from the beach in Gaza with the US pier in the backdrop.

Two US officials told CBS News that the pier was not used in the operation and in a series of statements released later on Saturday, US Central Command (Centcom) said that the “pier facility, including its equipment, personnel, and assets were not used in the operation to rescue hostages today in Gaza.”

Importantly, on Saturday The Times of Israel’s chief military correspondent Emanuel Fabian confirmed that the video showed an IDF helicopter extracting a hostage: “Footage shows one of the hostages (presumably Noa Argamani) being extracted from the Gaza Strip in a helicopter after being rescued from Hamas captivity in Nuseirat,” he wrote on X. One initial commenter picked up on what can clearly be seen in the immediate background, “Right next to the US pier?”

US Central Command (CENTCOM) attempted to address allegations that the Gaza pier was used in Saturday’s Israeli military operation:

On Sunday, Hamas’ armed wing is claiming that three Israeli hostages killed, including a US citizen (dual national), during the Israel rescue raid in Gaza. Hamas also says the whole operation resulted in a civilian massacre of the area, and especially in a refugee camp. One eyewitness account is as follows:

“The occupation has annihilated the Nuseirat refugee camp. Innocent and unarmed civilian were bombed in their homes. I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s a catastrophe,” local resident Nidal Abdo told Middle East Eye. 

“I came from the camp to here in the hospital on foot. I can’t describe how we fled. I saw dead children and body parts strewn all over as we fled. No one was able to assist them. I saw an elderly man killed on a animal-drawn cart.

“Nuseirat was being annihilated. It was hell.”

Meanwhile, some pundits are asserting that all of this makes the Pentagon complicit in the massive casualties in central Gaza that resulted from the IDF rescue op. They are pointing out that hundreds were killed and wounded in order to rescue four Israelis.

These critics are alleging that the US aid pier is really all about providing “cover” for a deepening US military role in the conflict. Already, US anti-air systems have been spotted on the pier, and US troops overseeing its operations have been given a ‘right to return fire’ order if fired upon.

 

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