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World leaders praise rescue of Gaza captives - and fail to mention hundreds of dead Palestinians

Western leaders call rescue of four captives a moment of 'hope' even as more than 210 Palestinians were killed during the operation
Noa Argamani, 26, next to her father at the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Centre, in Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv, after her rescue from the Gaza Strip by the Israeli army, on 8 June 2024 (Israeli Army handout / AFP)

The rescue of four Israeli captives from Gaza in a special operation on Saturday made headlines around the world and saw an outpouring of praise from international leaders.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz described it as an "important sign of hope" and called for Hamas to release its other captives, while British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said it was "a huge relief to see hostages returned after their unimaginable ordeal and heart-warming to see the pictures of them reunited with their families".

US President Joe Biden, speaking alongside French President Emmanuel Macron, said he echoed his counterpart's comments "welcoming the safe rescue of four hostages that were returned to their families in Israel".

"We won’t stop working until all the hostages come home and a ceasefire is reached. That is essential to happen," Biden said.

In a statement, US Central Command praised the Israeli operation, which was reportedly carried out with involvement from the American hostages cell in Israel.

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"Congratulations to the Israeli Security Forces and the people of Israel for the successful rescue and return to their families of the four hostages seized on October 7," the statement read.

What none of them mentioned, however, was the hundreds of Palestinians who were killed by Israelis during the operation.

The Palestinian government media office in Gaza said the death toll from Israel's attack reached at least 236, with 400 more wounded.

One eyewitness told Middle East Eye that the attack on Nuseirat refugee camp left "dead children and body parts strewn all over", while health officials said the sheer number of casualties was at risk of overwhelming the Al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital.

A number of Arab states cited the deaths, with Egypt's foreign ministry saying the operation's death toll constituted "a blatant violation of all provisions of international law and international humanitarian law, as well as all values of humanity and human rights".

European foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also criticised the killings, even as he welcomed the release of the hostages.

"Reports from Gaza of another massacre of civilians are appalling. We condemn this in the strongest terms. The bloodbath must end immediately," he said in a statement.

Some non-government figures in the West drew attention to the failure to recognise the heavy toll paid by ordinary Palestinians for the Israeli operation, including Assal Rad, research director at the National Iranian American Council, and Jonathon Shafi, a columnist with UK-based Novara Media.

Mehdi Hasan, the noted British-American broadcaster and political commentator, also condemned the failure to acknowledge the deaths of Palestinians.

Much of the media in the West, however, failed to mention the deaths of Palestinians during the course of the operation, at least initially.

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