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Yes, they are using the substitution of dirac delta $$ \delta' f(x)=-\delta(x)f'(x) $$ And the calculation follows as $$ (\partial^2+m^2)D_R(x-y)=(\partial^2\theta(x^0-y^0))\langle 0 |[\phi(x),\phi(y)]|0\rangle +\theta(x^0-y^0)(\partial^2+m^2)\langle 0 |[\phi(x),\phi(y)]|0\rangle + ...


Peskin & Schroeder, An Intro to QFT, are using that$^1$ $$i\Delta(x-y)~:=~\langle 0 | [\phi(x), \phi(y)] |0\rangle \tag{K} $$ vanishes for space-like vectors, see below eq. (2.53) on p. 28. In particular for equal times $x^0=y^0$, we have $$i\Delta(0,{\bf x}-{\bf y})~=~0.\tag{L}$$ Therefore at the physics level of rigor ...

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