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Hostages, from left, Alon Shamriz, Samer Al-Talalka and Yotam Haim were mistakenly shot by Israeli troops in Gaza city Courtesy of the Shamriz, Al-Talalka and Haim families via AP/PA Images

Three hostages killed by Israeli troops were 'shirtless and carrying white cloth', IDF confirms

Protesters outside Israel’s ministry of defence in Tel Aviv called on Netanyahu’s government to secure the release of 129 hostages still held by Hamas.

LAST UPDATE | 16 Dec 2023

THE THREE HOSTAGES killed by Israeli soldiers in Gaza were shot even as they carried a “white cloth” and cried for help in Hebrew, an Israeli army official has confirmed.

Israel has been mourning the deaths of Yotam Haim, Alon Shamriz and Samer El-Talalqa, who were killed in a neighbourhood of Gaza City on Friday when troops mistook them for a threat, the army said.

Bringing back captives taken by Hamas militants on October 7 has been a key reason cited by the army for its assault on Gaza.

The killing of the three hostages, all in their twenties, sparked protests in Tel Aviv.

An army official detailed the findings of an ongoing preliminary investigation into their deaths in a virtual briefing to journalists.

The three “emerged tens of metres from one of our forces’ positions”, he said. “They’re all without shirts and they have a stick with a white cloth on it,” he said, asking not to be named.


A soldier sees them and “feels threatened and opens fire”, the official said.

“He declares that they’re terrorists. They (soldiers) open fire. Two are killed immediately, one is injured and runs back into the building.”

The official said the soldiers heard “a cry for help… in Hebrew”.

“Immediately, the battalion commander issues a ceasefire order. But again, there’s another burst of fire towards the third figure and he also dies,” the official said.

He added that it was possible the hostages “were abandoned or escaped”.

He also said that several hundred metres (yards) away, “there was a building with markings of SOS on it,” and the army was investigating whether there was a connection between the building and the hostages.

The army official said the killings were “against our rules of engagement”.

He called it a “tragic” event and a “very hard day”, but said there was “intense combat in the area” and that troops had been under “intense pressure”.

“The terrorists, they are moving around in civilian attire. They’re wearing sneakers and jeans. And there’s a lot of ambushes there.”

He said fighters had been “trying to pull us in to traps” with deceptive tactics.

“The rules of engagement are being sent out again to all the forces,” he said.

The three hostages were among about 240 people taken during Hamas’s October 7 attacks in Israel, which killed around 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli figures.

As news of the incident spread late last night, hundreds of people gathered at Israel’s ministry of defence in Tel Aviv to call on Netanyahu’s government to secure the release of 129 hostages still being held in Hamas-ruled territory.

15-december-2023-israel-tel-aviv-israelis-take-part-in-a-protest-following-the-israeli-military-news-of-3-hostages-killed-in-gaza-by-friendly-fire-israeli-soldiers-accidentally-killed-three-hostag Israelis taking part in a protest last night following the news that the IDF had inadvertently killed three Israeli hostages in Gaza. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Vowing to destroy Hamas and bring back the hostages, Israel launched a massive military offensive against the Palestinian Islamist movement that has left much of the Gaza Strip in ruins.

The territory’s Hamas government says the war has killed at least 18,800 people, mostly women and children.

“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,” Israel Defense Forces spokesman Daniel Hagari said.

“The IDF expresses deep sorrow regarding this disaster and shares in the grief of the families.”

Their bodies were transferred to Israel, and on examination were confirmed as being Haim, a 28-year-old heavy metal drummer, 25-year-old Bedouin man El-Talalqa and Shamriz, aged 26.

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


At last night’s demonstration, protesters waved Israeli flags and brandished placards.

“Every day, a hostage dies,” read one message.

“I am dying of fear,” said Merav Svirsky, sister of Hamas-held hostage Itay Svirsky.

“We demand a deal now.”

In November, a short-lived truce saw more than 100 hostages freed in exchange for Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

That deal has since lapsed and fighting has resumed.

15-december-2023-israel-tel-aviv-israelis-take-part-in-a-protest-following-the-israeli-military-news-of-3-hostages-killed-in-gaza-by-friendly-fire-israeli-soldiers-accidentally-killed-three-hostag Protesters demanding a deal for remaining hostages last night. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

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

In retaliation for the October attacks, Netanyahu has vowed to destroy Hamas and bring the hostages home.

However, his tactics have brought searing criticism from neighbouring Muslim states, and deep unease among allies in Europe, the United States and beyond.

Blackout concern

A prolonged communications blackout that severed telephone and internet connections compounded the misery today in the besieged Gaza Strip, where a United Nations agency said hunger levels had spiralled in recent days.

Internet and telephone lines went down on Thursday evening and were still inaccessible on Saturday morning, according to internet access advocacy group, hampering aid deliveries and rescue efforts as Israel’s war against Gaza’s ruling militant group Hamas stretched into the 11th week.

“The internet blackout is ongoing, and based on our records it is the longest such incident” in the over-two-month war, said Alp Toker, the group’s director.

The United Nations’ humanitarian affairs department said communications with Gaza were “severely disrupted” due to damage to telecommunications lines in the south.

White House talks

With Hamas authorities claiming the war has now killed 18,800 people, the White House, which provides billions of dollars in military aid to Israel, voiced growing concern over civilian casualties.

“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.

Biden’s top security advisor Jake Sullivan was visiting Israel and the West Bank to drive that message home.

“We do not believe that it makes sense for Israel, or is right for Israel, to… reoccupy Gaza over the long term,” Sullivan said after meeting Israeli leaders.

News platform Axios reported that 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.

– © AFP 2023