The Israel Defense Forces said Friday it accidentally killed three Israeli hostages in Gaza after misidentifying them as a threat.
The hostages were shirtless and waving a white flag when they were shot, according to an IDF official.
The killing adds more grief to the Israeli people who took to the streets of Tel Aviv on Saturday to protest o we the hostages still being held by Hamas in Gaza.
In his first remarks after Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) killed three Israeli hostages in the Gaza Strip yesterday, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi has claimed responsibility, saying “we will do everything to prevent the recurrence of such cases in the continuation of the fighting.”
“The incident in which IDF soldiers mistakenly killed Yotam Haim, Alon Shamriz and Samar Talalka, may their memory be blessed, is a difficult and painful event,” Halevi says in a video statement.
“The three hostages who survived seventy hellish days, moved towards the IDF soldiers, and were killed by our forces’ fire.
“There is nothing that the IDF soldiers and their commanders in the Gaza Strip want more than to rescue hostages alive,” he says
“We did not succeed in this case. We feel the deep sorrow of the families for the deaths of the hostages,” Halevi continues.
Halevi says that “the IDF, and I as its commander, are responsible for what happened, and we will do everything to prevent the recurrence of such cases in the continuation of the fighting.”
“I try to place myself in the head of the soldier in Shejaiya, after days of hard fighting, close encounters, encounters with terrorists dressed in civilian clothes, who arrive in various deceitful ways. He must be alert and ready for any threat,” he says.
“A split-second decision can [result in] life or death,” Halevi says.
He adds that “the three hostages did everything so that we would understand [that they did not pose a threat]: They moved without shirts so that we would not suspect them of carrying a bomb on their bodies, and held a white cloth so that we would understand.”
“The shooting at the hostages was carried out contrary to the open-fire regulations. It is forbidden to shoot at those who raise a white flag and ask to surrender. But this shooting was carried out during combat and under pressure,” Halevi says.
Halevi says the IDF has completed a preliminary investigation into the incident, and immediately sent new protocols to ground forces. ”
We informed the families of the difficult findings and published them transparently to the public,” he adds.
“There may be additional cases in which hostages escape or are abandoned during the fighting, and we have the duty and responsibility to rescue them alive,” Halevi says.
“It is the fighting that brings the opportunities for the return of the hostages,” he says, possibly also referring in part to a previous deal with Hamas.
“Our troops have been fighting for seventy days in Gaza and on the other fronts, with bravery and determination to defend [Israel]. In one moment, the complexity of our just war in Gaza was revealed,” he says.
“We went out to fight in order to dismantle the enemy across the border, and to return the hostages home. Without the determined fighting, we will not be able to return the hostages, and we will not be able to return the [Gaza border] communities to safety,” Halevi says.
“We must continue the fighting with might, without taking our eyes off its goals,” he adds.