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The Israeli military misidentified bare-chested male hostages waving a white flag in Gaza and shot the three in violation of the rules of engagement, a military official said on Saturday.
The Israeli army is investigating the killing of Yotam Haim, Alon Shamrez and Samer Talalqa, who are presumed to have escaped from Hamas captivity.
The official said that the hostages were “dozens of meters” from the Israeli positions. The military official said that an Israeli soldier thought they were Hamas fighters trying to trap Israeli soldiers, and considered them “terrorists.”
Two were killed instantly and the third died while running for cover while calling for help in Hebrew. A military official said that during the shooting, the local commander issued a ceasefire order, which the soldiers did not comply with.
The killing of the hostages came after Palestinian human rights groups documented several cases of civilians in Gaza waving white flags being shot by Israeli soldiers.
Hamas said a group of other hostages were killed in Israel’s ongoing bombardment of Gaza, which President Joe Biden last week described as “indiscriminate.” Israel killed more than 18,000 Palestinians in its ground invasion and bombing of Gaza, according to Palestinian health officials.
The families of about 130 hostages still held by Hamas plan to protest in Tel Aviv later on Saturday to reiterate their demands that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participate in negotiations to secure the release of their relatives. The government insists that weakening Hamas militarily will lead to the release of the hostages.
Recently released hostage, Raz Ben-Ami, said the government should participate in another round of prisoner-for-hostage exchanges immediately.
She added: “Ten days ago, I warned cabinet members that the fighting could harm the hostages.” “I begged them and warned them that fighting might harm the hostages. Unfortunately, I was right.”
IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevy said he took responsibility for their deaths, and that while Israeli soldiers in Gaza were operating under difficult and unpredictable conditions, the decision to fire on shirtless men carrying a white flag went against existing rules of engagement. .
He added: “But these shots were made during fighting and under pressure.” “In an instant, the complexity of our just war in Gaza was revealed.”
Israel intensified its military operations on the eastern edge of the Gaza Strip, today, Saturday, as there were reports of bombings and battles in the cities of Shujaiya and Khan Yunis. An Al Jazeera cameraman was killed and a reporter injured in a drone strike on a school used to house displaced people from Gaza.
Hamas took about 240 people hostage on October 7 during a cross-border raid that killed 1,200 people in Israel, according to the Israeli government. Dozens were released during a Qatari-brokered exchange deal in which three Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons were released in exchange for the release of every Israeli hostage – most of them women and children.
This exchange took place under a truce that allowed the flow of humanitarian aid to the besieged enclave. Most of the coastal enclave’s 2.3 million people have been displaced to southern Gaza, with little clean water, food and medicine in tent cities and UN shelters.
David Barnea, head of the Israeli intelligence service Mossad, met with Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani on Friday evening in Europe in an attempt to revive talks on a possible agreement with Hamas to secure the release of the hostages. Hamas classified most of the remaining hostages as Israeli soldiers.
Netanyahu said on Saturday that the first round of hostage releases only took place due to Israeli military pressure on Hamas, and pledged to continue the war to help release the rest. He said: “The instructions I give to the negotiating team are based on this pressure, without which we have nothing.”
Hamas said their release would require Israel to release many, if not all, of the more than 7,000 Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.
A person familiar with the discussions said the talks were positive but progress was slow. This is the first time that Barnea has met with the Qatari Prime Minister since December 2.
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