Three Israeli Hostages killed by Friendly Fire in Gaza, Sparking Protests


Israel is in mourning after three of its citizens, who were held hostage by Hamas in Gaza, were killed by Israeli forces who mistook them for militants. The incident, which the military called a “tragic” error, triggered angry demonstrations in Tel Aviv, demanding the release of the remaining hostages.

The victims, Yotam Haim, Alon Shamriz and Samer El-Talalqa, all in their twenties, were among about 240 people kidnapped by Hamas during its October 7 raids into Israel that also left around 1,200 dead. They were shot by Israeli troops during an operation in Shejaiya, a neighbourhood of Gaza City.

“During combat in Shejaiya, the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) mistakenly identified three Israeli hostages as a threat and as a result, fired toward them and the hostages were killed,” said Daniel Hagari, a spokesman for the IDF. He added: “The IDF expresses deep sorrow regarding this disaster and shares in the grief of the families.”

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The bodies of the three hostages were brought back to Israel and identified as Haim, a heavy metal drummer, El-Talalqa, a Bedouin, and Shamriz. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called their deaths an “unbearable tragedy” and said: “All of Israel is grieving their loss.” The White House also expressed condolences and called the incident a “tragic mistake”.

On Friday night, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv, waving Israeli flags and holding signs. They urged Netanyahu’s government to negotiate a deal with Hamas to free the 129 hostages still in its custody.

“Every day, a hostage dies,” one sign read. Merav Svirsky, whose brother Itay is among the hostages, said: “I am dying of fear. We demand a deal now.”

In November, a brief ceasefire allowed the release of more than 100 hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. But the truce collapsed and the fighting resumed.

The deaths of the hostages have also increased the pressure on Israel to end its military campaign in Gaza, which has drawn criticism from Muslim countries and Western allies. Hamas claims that the war has killed 18,800 people, mostly civilians.

The US, which gives Israel billions of dollars in military aid, has voiced concern over the high civilian toll and urged Israel to be more careful. US President Joe Biden said: “I want them to be focused on how to save civilian lives — not stop going after Hamas, but be more careful.” His national security advisor Jake Sullivan visited Israel and the West Bank to convey that message.

According to Axios, a news platform, the head of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, David Barnea, will meet with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Europe this weekend. They will reportedly discuss the possibility of resuming talks for a hostage swap deal.

Meanwhile, the violence continues in Gaza, where Hamas said it had detonated a house with Israeli soldiers inside in Khan Yunis, a southern city.