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Israeli army admits it ‘mistakenly’ killed three hostages in Gaza

‘Even on this difficult evening, we will bind up our wounds, learn the lessons and continue with a supreme effort to return all our hostages home safely,’ Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement

Israeli soldiers operate in the Gaza Strip
Israeli soldiers operate in the Gaza Strip, on December 14, 2023.ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES (via REUTERS)

“During a firefight in Shejaiye [in northern Gaza], the IDF mistakenly identified three Israeli hostages as a threat. As a result, the troops fired toward them and they were killed.” This is how the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) acknowledged on Friday that they had killed three of the 132 hostages kidnapped on October 7 who remained in the Gaza Strip. “During searches and checks in the area in which the incident occurred, a suspicion arose over the identities of the deceased. Their bodies were transferred to Israeli territory for examination, after which it was confirmed that they were three Israeli hostages,” the military added in the statement.

The three Israelis killed were identified as Yotam Haim, Samer Talalka and Alon Shamriz — all of them in their twenties. “We believe the three fled or were abandoned by the terrorists who were holding them captive. It is a tragic mistake that we will fully investigate,” said military spokesman Daniel Hagari.

The announcement has prompted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and war cabinet minister Benny Gantz to stress the importance of bringing back the hostages. “Together with the entire people of Israel, I bow my head in deep sorrow and mourn the fall of three of our dear sons who were kidnapped,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “Even on this difficult evening, we will bind up our wounds, learn the lessons and continue with a supreme effort to return all our hostages home safely.”

“My heart is broken upon learning of the tragedy this evening,” Gantz wrote on X (formerly Twitter). “Our responsibility is to win the war, and part of that victory will be to bring the hostages home. We will do everything to bring them back alive. Everything.”

Before the deaths became known, Israeli TV channel 12 reported that the families of the hostages are considering starting a hunger strike over the paralysis of negotiations, which involve Qatar, Egypt and the United States and which previously led to a week-long prisoner-for-hostage swap and a ceasefire at the end of November.

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