New Delhi: The Israel military has expressed regret over the killing of three Israeli hostages mistaken for Hamas operatives at Shejaya in Gaza and blamed the “horrible” nature of the conflict for the massive error in judgement.
The three hostages have been identified as Yotam Haim, Samer Talalka and Alon Shamriz. They were kidnapped by Hamas operatives during the October 7 attacks on Israel cities.
Explaining what exactly happened, a senior Israel army officer has told The Times of Israel that on Friday morning, an Israeli soldier spotted three men exiting a building at Shejaya, a Hamas stronghold. The three were shirtless, and one of them carried a stick with a makeshift white flag.
Fearing that it was a Hamas trap, the soldier opened fire and shouted, “terrorists!” Two of the three men were killed in the firing. The third was wounded and managed to flee back into the building. At this point, the battalion commander asked the forces not to fire. Shouts in Hebrew — apparently by the injured hostage — were heard. Soon after, the third man came out of the building and despite the no fire order, another soldier shot and killed him, the officer has told The Times of Israel. The three were later identified as Israeli hostages.
“During combat in Shejaiya, the IDF mistakenly identified 3 Israeli hostages as a threat and as a result, fired toward them and the hostages were killed,” Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said in a post on X, adding, “the IDF expresses deep remorse over the tragic incident and sends the families its heartfelt condolences”.
The military said they have reviewed the incident. “The IDF emphasizes that this is an active combat zone in which ongoing fighting over the last few days has occurred. Immediate lessons from the event have been learned, which have been passed on to all IDF troops in the field,” they said.
The new protocols, The Times of Israel reported, ask soldiers to keep in mind that hostages may have been abandoned or escaped. The soldiers should “pay attention to tell-tale signs, such as speaking in Hebrew, raising hands, and clothing”.
During an interview to Times Radio, IDF spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht said the Israeli forces are “fighting an organisation who’s firing at us from within allies and they are wearing civilian clothes”. “This (Hamas) is not a regular army. This is a rogue terrorist Army. That tragic event happened due to the nature of this conflict,” he said.
Reacting to the incident, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has it was heart-breaking, but “military pressure is necessary” to bring the hostages home.
“It broke my heart. It broke the whole nation’s heart. With all the deep sorrow, I want to clarify: the military pressure is necessary both for the return of the kidnapped and for achieving victory over our enemies,” he said.
The tragic death of three hostages in friendly fire have prompted louder calls for the Israel government to revive talks with Hamas. Netanyahu, however, is adamant that military pressure was needed for negotiations to succeed. “The guidance I give to the negotiations team is based on this pressure, and without it, we have nothing,” he said, according to an AFP report.
The news of the death of hostages has compounded the worries of the families of the other hostages.
“We feel like we’re in a Russian roulette game (finding out) who will be next in line to be told the death of their loved one,” Ruby Chen, father of 19-year-old hostage and soldier Itai, has said.
“They explained to us first that the ground operation would bring back the abductees. It doesn’t work. Because since then, abductees have been seen returning, but not so much alive,” AFP quoted him as saying.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Kashmir Monitor staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)