Israel investigates its army’s accidental killing of three Israeli hostages in Gaza

The Israeli army was on Saturday investigating the killing of three Israeli hostages which it said had been mistakenly identified as a threat by soldiers, an incident that sparked protests in Tel Aviv.

The military said Yotam Haim, Alon Shamriz and Samer El-Talalqa — all in their 20s — were shot during operations in Gaza City.

They were among about 250 people taken hostage during Hamas’ October 7 attacks in Israel, which killed around 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli figures.

Vowing to destroy Hamas and bring back the hostages, Israel launched a massive military offensive against the Palestinian group that has left much of the Gaza Strip in ruins. The Hamas-run territory’s health ministry says the war has killed at least 18,800 people, mostly women and children.

Army spokesman Daniel Hagari said that during fighting in Shejaiya district of Gaza City, troops “mistakenly identified three Israeli hostages as a threat and as a result, fired toward them and the hostages were killed.”

The military said later it had started “reviewing the incident” and that “immediate lessons from the event have been learned” and passed on to all troops on the ground.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described their deaths as an “unbearable tragedy.”

Hundreds of people later gathered outside the defense ministry in Tel Aviv to call on Netanyahu’s government to secure the release of 129 hostages still held in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

“I am dying of fear,” said Merav Svirsky, sister of Hamas-held hostage Itay Svirsky. “We demand a deal now.”

‘He died hungry’

In November, a one-week truce saw more than 100 hostages freed in exchange for Palestinians held in Israeli jails, but fighting has since resumed.

The hostages’ deaths have heightened already fierce scrutiny of how Israel is conducting its ground and air assault in Gaza.

The White House, which provides billions of dollars in military aid to Israel, has voiced growing concern over mounting civilian deaths.

“I want them to be focused on how to save civilian lives — not stop going after Hamas, but be more careful,” said US President Joe Biden this week.

News platform Axios said the director of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, David Barnea, was due to meet this weekend in an unspecified location in Europe with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.

Axios said the officials would discuss resuming negotiations for a deal to secure the release of the remaining hostages.

In Gaza, fierce fighting continued.

The Israeli army said Saturday it had raided two schools in Gaza City saying they were Hamas hiding place.

TV network Al Jazeera said Friday that one of its journalists, Samer Abu Daqqa, had been killed and another, Wael Dahdouh, wounded by “shrapnel from an Israeli missile attack” in Khan Younis.

“He died hungry, they died with nothing to eat, with hunger. Oh my darling,” said his grieving mother, Umm Maher.

More than 60 journalists and media staff have died since the war began, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

“We were reporting, we were filming, we had finished and we were with the civil defense, but when we were on the way back, they hit us with a missile,” said Dahdouh, who lost his wife, two children and grandchild earlier in the war.

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