Anger and sorrow in Israel as army admits killing three hostages held by Hamas

Prime Minister Netanyahu calls incident 'unbearable tragedy'

Israeli military says troops mistakenly shot dead three hostages in Gaza

Israeli military says troops mistakenly shot dead three hostages in Gaza
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Hundreds of Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv on Saturday after the Israeli army said it had mistakenly killed three hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.

Protesters, among them relatives of the hostages, gathered outside the military headquarters to demanding a ceasefire deal that would lead to the release of the remaining hostages.

The deaths were announced as US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan visited Israel to persuade Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reduce military operations in Gaza “sooner rather than later.”

“Time is running out Bring them home now!” the protesters chanted using megaphones.

Meanwhile, on Saturday morning, at least 14 Palestinians died from air strikes that hit two houses on Old Gaza Street in Jabaliya and dozens more were killed in a separate air strike that hit another home in Jabaliya, the official Palestinian WAFA news agency reported.

It also said a large number of civilians were trapped under rubble.

Since the war began, close to 19,000 people have been killed in Gaza, sparking international demands for a ceasefire.

Also, a prolonged communications blackout that severed telephone and internet connections compounded the misery in Gaza on Saturday.

Internet and telephone lines had gone down on Thursday evening and were still inaccessible on Saturday morning, AP reported, citing internet access advocacy group

Blocking traffic

In Tel Aviv, the protesters had begun gathering late on Friday and continued marching and blocking traffic into Saturday.

The Israeli military identified the dead as Yotam Haim and Shamriz, who were kidnapped from Kibbutz Kfar Aza by Hamas on October 7, and Samer Talalka, who was kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Am.

The army said on Friday that its forces in Gaza mistook the hostages as a threat during combat in Shejaiya, and “fired toward them”.

“During searches and checks in the area in which the incident occurred, a suspicion arose over the identities of the deceased,” the Israeli military said in a statement.

“Their bodies were transferred to Israeli territory for examination, after which it was confirmed that they were three Israeli hostages.”

The Israeli military said that the area where the incident took place is “an active combat zone in which continuing fighting over the last few days has occurred”, adding that “immediate lessons from the event have been learnt”.

Citing an initial probe, local Israeli media reported on Saturday that the three Israeli hostages who were mistakenly shot dead were shirtless and waving a white flag.

A senior Israeli officer in the Southern Command said a soldier stationed in the Shejaiya neighbourhood saw three shirtless men - one was carrying a stick with a makeshift white flag.

The soldier who fired at them mistakenly believed that the men were members of Hamas, and were moving towards them as part of a trap.

Two men were killed on the spot, according to the reports, while the third was wounded and fled into a building.

When the third hostage came back outside, he was shot by another soldier.

Remaining hostages

Some 130 hostages remain in Gaza amid Israel’s intensified ground operations and bombing campaign against Hamas.

A total of 110 hostages, taken prisoners during the 7 October attacks on Israel, were earlier released as part of a Qatar-negotiated prisoner exchange deal.

Under the deal between Hamas and Israel, 180 Palestinians were released from Israeli jails and a six-day ceasefire also allowed humanitarian aid into the besieged Gaza.

Netanyahu says 'Unbearable tragedy'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called the mistaken killing of hostages by Israeli troops an “unbearable tragedy”.

“Together with the entire people of Israel, I bow my head in deep sorrow and mourn the death of three of our hostages, including Yotam Haim and Samer Fouad Talalka,” he said on X.

“This is an unbearable tragedy and all of Israel is grieving their loss this evening. My heart goes out to the bereaved families at this difficult time.

“Today, on this painful evening, we will dress our wounds, learn the lessons and continue the most important effort of bringing all the hostages home,” the Prime Minister said.

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum also expressed its sorrow at the loss of the three hostages killed.

According to the forum, Mr Talalka, 25, had been the eldest of 10 children and was reportedly wounded by Hamas gunfire when he was initially kidnapped in early October.

The forum added that Mr Haim, a lifelong drummer, had been in his home during Hamas's attack on southern Israel when the terrorists set it on fire. After he opened the window to escape the smoke, he was abducted.

Israel army had earlier recovered the bodies of hostages CPL Nik Beizer, 19, and Sgt Ron Sherman, 19, who were abducted by Hamas.

The body of 28-year-old Elia Toledano, who was taken hostage, has also been recovered by the special forces in an operation in Gaza and taken to Israel this week.

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Updated: December 16, 2023, 12:20 PM