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So many Palestinian deaths in Israel’s hostage rescue is horrible. But Hamas is to blame.

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Our divisive political environment isn’t good for much, but it is good for one thing: clarity.

We saw that firsthand over the weekend when news broke that Israel Defense Forces liberated four hostages kidnapped by Hamas on Oct. 7. This is good news. After 246 days in captivity, Noa Argamani, 25, Almog Meir Jan, 21, Andrey Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 40, were reunited with their families.

They were among more than 240 hostages, including several Americans, Hamas abducted in Israel eight months ago.

Unfortunately, their liberation has not been celebrated as good news everywhere.

During the rescue, at least 210 Palestinians (some reports say 270), including civilians and children, were killed. Reports indicate that the hostages were hidden among Gaza’s civilian population, making the rescue difficult. The hostages also were heavily guarded by Hamas terrorists.

Major news outlets, including NBC, CNN and The Washington Post, framed their stories with the Palestinian deaths as the lead. “More than 200 Palestinians killed in Israeli hostage raid in Gaza,” The Post headline read.

Prominent social media accounts condemned the rescue and the bloodshed. There has even been debate over what the world reaction would be if, hypothetically, more than 200 Israelis were killed to rescue four Palestinians.

“To celebrate an operation that kills hundreds of Palestinians to save 4 Israelis is to openly say Palestinian lives are worth less than Israeli ones,” progressive policy analyst Omar Baddar posted on X.

While commentators and news outlets reframe this incredible hostage rescue as a debate over the value of human life, it’s important to add clarity to such an event and to remind everyone that the IDF would not need to rescue any hostages if Hamas had not taken any hostages captive.

What about the hostages?

To be clear: I don’t dismiss civilian deaths. Particularly children. I’m a mother. A child’s death is horrific, no matter whether the child is Israeli or Palestinian.

Reports on the raid Saturday suggest that the rescue of Argamani went as the IDF had meticulously planned for months, but the rescue of the other three was not as smooth. The rescues were done during the day to have the element of surprise, even though the IDF was aware there would be more civilians around. When the covert mission to rescue the other three hostages was exposed, more civilians died as a result.

“Aircraft struck dozens of military targets for the success of the operation,” the IDF said in a statement. “Hamas, in a very cruel and cynical way, is holding hostages inside civilian buildings.”

But members of the IDF did not organize and execute the operation without cause. The entire reason hostages needed to be liberated is because they had been kidnapped and not returned for eight months. The reason there were hostages in the first place is because Hamas on Oct. 7 started a brutal war against Israel by murdering about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and by taking more than 200 innocent Israelis, Americans and others hostage.

US must help free Hamas hostages: For five months, we thought our son was alive. Release Hamas hostages and spare others our pain.

On that day, Hamas murdered the elderly, children and young adults at a music festival. Hamas terrorists also raped women and left a trail of suffering in their wake.

Political, religious or ethnic affiliations and loyalties seem to have gotten in the way of recalling the facts of Oct. 7, which are undisputable and horrific.

What is one life worth?

It’s tragic that so many Palestinians died when the IDF liberated the four hostages. But the IDF would not have undertaken such a raid if Hamas had not started this war. It would be wise to remember that when digesting this news.

Believe the survivors: Hamas hostages in Gaza are still enduring sexual violence

The world’s anger, disappointment and cynicism should be turned toward Hamas (and the Iranian government that supports Hamas). In fact, this would be a good time to call out Hamas for still holding approximately 120 other hostages.

If Hamas valued Palestinian lives as much as they claim, they would release these people, including the Americans among them. That President Joe Biden has not done and said more about the Americans held hostage is also a tragedy.

“Whoever saves one life saves the world entire,” is an often-quoted paraphrase of the Talmud, the book of Jewish law. It is a true and wise sentiment that can offer clarity in the muddled gray of war. All human life has value, whether hostage or civilian, Jewish or Palestinian. But to frame this hostage rescue as a debate about the value of human life − and to suggest that one side doesn’t value life while the other does − is to be disingenuous about the actions of Hamas toward innocent Jews.

In life, there are consequences to actions. Some far worse than others. The Palestinian deaths during the hostage rescue stemmed from Oct. 7 and the awful choices Hamas continues to make.

Nicole Russell is an opinion columnist with USA TODAY. She lives in Texas with her four kids. Sign up for her newsletter, The Right Track, and get it delivered to your inbox.

You can read diverse opinions from our USA TODAY columnists and other writers on the Opinion front page, on X, formerly Twitter, @usatodayopinion and in our Opinion newsletter.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Why did Palestinians die during Israel hostage rescue? Blame Hamas

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