The deaths highlight the dire risks faced by the remaining hostages. (2024)

The deaths highlight the dire risks faced by the remaining hostages.


The three Israeli hostages who were killed by Israeli forces in Gaza on Friday had emerged shirtless from a building and were bearing a makeshift white flag when they were shot, the military said on Saturday.

The troubling details of how they died have created widespread anguish in Israel and prompted renewed calls for another temporary truce and a deal to allow more hostages to be released. Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevy, the Israeli military chief of staff, said the three hostages had done “everything so that we would understand” that they were harmless, including removing their shirts to show they bore no explosives.

Nonetheless, Israeli troops shot and killed them, in an incident that shocked a country already deeply concerned about the fate of its remaining hostages in Gaza. He said the shooting violated the military’s rules of engagement.

“It is forbidden to shoot at those who raise a white flag and seek to surrender,” General Halevy said, adding, “The Israel Defense Forces, and myself as its commander, are responsible for what happened.”

Protesters in Tel Aviv and relatives of hostages expressed anger over the killings and pressed the government to focus on reaching another hostage-for-prisoners deal with Hamas rather than continuing a full-scale offensive in Gaza.

With outrage growing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the nation late Saturday on television, expressing empathy for the families of the slain hostages. “It broke my heart,” he said. “It broke the entire country’s heart.”

But he made clear he would not scale back or halt the air and ground campaigns. He cast the conflict as “a war for our existence” and argued that maintaining military action was necessary to persuade Hamas to release more hostages.

“With all of the deep sorrow, I would like to clarify: The military pressure is essential both for returning the hostages and achieving victory over our enemies,” he said.

The Israeli military announced the accidental killings on Friday, hours after saying it had recovered the bodies of three other Israeli hostages in Gaza. The deaths underscore the continuing risks for the more than 120 people who Israel says remain in captivity after being kidnapped during the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

In a written statement describing the results of a preliminary inquiry, the Israeli military said its soldiers had been operating in Shejaiye, an area of Gaza City that has seen intense fighting. Earlier this week, at least nine Israeli soldiers were killed during battles in the neighborhood as the military sought to root out Palestinian militants there.

On Friday, the soldiers were on high alert for attempts by Hamas to ambush Israeli forces, possibly in civilian clothes, as they patrolled the area, the military said.

The three hostages emerged, shirtless, from a building tens of yards away from the Israeli soldiers, bearing a stick with a white cloth, the military said its preliminary investigation found. One of the soldiers, believing they posed a threat, opened fire on the three hostages, killing two of them and wounding the third, the early investigation found.

The third hostage fled into the building, from which a cry in Hebrew for help could be heard. The battalion commander ordered the forces to hold their fire. But the wounded hostage later re-emerged, after which he was fatally shot, the military statement said.

In a briefing with reporters, an Israeli military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity under military protocol, said the hostages may have escaped or have been abandoned by their captors.

The military identified the three men killed on Friday as Yotam Haim and Alon Shamriz, both taken from Kibbutz Kfar Aza, and Samer Talalka, who had been kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Am, all in southern Israel near the Gaza border.

“This is a sad and painful incident for all of us,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the chief spokesman for the Israeli military, said on Friday. He vowed “full transparency” as the military investigates how the tragedy unfolded, and said the Israel Defense Forces bore “responsibility for everything that happened.”

Victoria Kim contributed reporting.

Aaron Boxerman and Ronen Bergman

Friendly-fire killings of hostages may force Israel to reconsider Gaza strategy.


The fatal shooting by Israeli soldiers in Gaza of three unarmed men who turned out to be Israeli hostages could give momentum to those pushing for a new cease-fire to allow for more hostages to be released.

Critics of how Israel is prosecuting its war in Gaza also seized on the event, in which Israeli soldiers fatally shot three shirtless men who were waving a white flag, as an example of its military’s failure to live up to its promises to protect civilians.

The incident has caused anguish in Israel and added new urgency to arguments over how the country should pursue its goals in Gaza.

The Israeli government has vowed not to stop its operations in Gaza until the military has destroyed Hamas, which led a surprise assault on southern Israel on Oct. 7 that killed an estimated 1,200 Israelis and took about 240 others to Gaza as captives, according to Israeli officials.

A week of cease-fires between Israel and Hamas last month saw 105 hostages freed in exchange for the release of Palestinians from Israeli jails before negotiations broke down and the war resumed on Dec. 1.

About 120 Israeli soldiers and civilians remain captive in Gaza, and their relatives have been holding protests and lobbying the government to push for another cease-fire so that their loved ones can return home.

Ruby Chen, an Israeli American citizen whose son, Itay, is believed to be held hostage in Gaza, said that he supported freeing Palestinian prisoners charged with murdering Israelis if it meant the release of his son.

The families of hostages were trapped in a game of “Russian roulette,” Mr. Chen said in a statement given by a hostage family advocacy group on Saturday. “We have no time to lose — should we wait for another 10 hostages in coffins?”

Palestinians and critics of how Israel has been fighting in Gaza have called the killings, which likely only became public because the three men were Israeli, a small example of the Israeli military’s disregard for civilians in Gaza.

“Under the laws of war, people are presumed to be civilians,” said Sari Bashi, the program director at Human Rights Watch. “There needs to be strong information to suggest they are not before you can kill them.”

Those rules do not appear to have been followed in this case, she said, given that the men were shirtless and waving a white flag.

“Nobody batted an eye before killing them,” she said, noting that the investigation came only after the soldiers thought the men could be Israelis.

“The Israeli military is right to investigate the apparently unlawful attacks on these three men,” Ms. Bashi said. “But it should investigate when Palestinian civilians are the victims too.”

Since Israel responded to the Hamas-led attack with a vast military campaign in Gaza, nearly 20,000 Palestinians have been killed, about 70 percent of whom were women and children, health authorities in Gaza say.

The Israeli military said that it went to great lengths to avoid harming Gaza’s civilians and accused Hamas of endangering them by embedding its fighters within the population. It also said the shooting of the three men on Friday violated the army’s rules of engagement.

Akram Attaallah, a columnist for Al-Ayyam, a Palestinian newspaper in the West Bank, said that he was not surprised Israeli forces had shot the three men and that Israel would not have had to disclose what happened to them had they been unarmed Palestinians.

“Israel kills even those who surrender and raise the white flag,” said Mr. Attaallah, who is from Gaza. “The narrative is a condemnation of the Israeli army.”

Aaron Boxerman contributed reporting.

A correction was made on

Dec. 17, 2023


An earlier version of this post misstated the nationalities of the 105 hostages freed. They were not all Israelis.

How we handle corrections

Ben Hubbard Reporting from Istanbul

Maps: Tracking the Attacks in Israel and GazaSee how Israeli troops reached Khan Younis, the largest city in southern Gaza.

Here is what we know about the hostages mistakenly killed by the Israeli military.


One of the young men was slated to perform at a Tel Aviv music festival on Oct. 7. Another was about to begin college and study computer engineering. The third was planning to marry soon and had started building a house next to his father’s.

The Israeli military identified the three hostages it mistakenly killed in Gaza on Friday as Yotam Haim and Alon Shamriz, taken from Kibbutz Kfar Aza during the Hamas-led assault on Oct. 7; and Samer Talalka, who was kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Am.

Here is what we know about the three men:

Mr. Haim, 28, was a drummer in a heavy metal band called Persephore. His band’s latest single was released in June, and it was planning on performing at a metal music festival in Tel Aviv on Oct. 7, said Liat Bell Sommer, a spokeswoman for the Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum.

A day before he was killed, his band had posted on social media that it was planning a concert in his honor.

Mr. Shamriz, 26, lived in a neighborhood called the Young Generation compound in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, according to the forum. He played on the Sha’ar Hanegev basketball team, based in the Negev desert in southern Israel, near Gaza.

On Oct. 7, when Hamas forces stormed the area around his apartment, his last message was a heart emoji sent to his brother, Jonathan.

Mr. Shamriz planned to study computer engineering at Sapir College, located in the northwestern Negev region, Ms. Sommer said.

Mr. Talalka, 24, was working at a chicken hatchery near Kibbutz Nir Am on Oct. 7 when he was abducted. He had spoken with his sister on the phone, telling her he was injured by terrorist gunfire before the call was disconnected, according to Ms. Sommer.

He was “an avid motorcyclist who loved to ride around the countryside,” she said.

Mr. Talalka was from Hura, a town in southern Israel of Bedouin Arabs, an Israeli minority. He was one of several Bedouin hostages; at least 17 of the roughly 1,200 people who were killed in the attack on Oct. 7 were Bedouins.

In an interview with Ynet, an Israeli news site, Mr. Talalka’s father described him as a “good, honest young man who stays out of trouble.” He had worked at the chicken hatchery with his father for the past six years.

His father said that his son planned to be married this summer and had started building a house right next to his.

“Sometimes in the afternoon, I wander around here, sitting alone in one of the incomplete rooms of Samer’s house,” his father said. “I’m often in tears, smoking a cigarette and sipping coffee — just waiting for him, hoping he’ll come home. A family member suggested we should keep building, but I just can’t. How can we go on building Samer’s home when he isn’t here?”

Gaya Gupta

Killing of Israeli hostages by Israel’s military alarms families of the abducted.


The mistaken killings of three Israeli hostages in Gaza by the Israeli military on Friday was a nightmare come true for former hostages and for the families of people still being held by Hamas.

Raz Ben-Ami, a former Israeli hostage released by Hamas during a recent truce between the two sides, told demonstrators in Tel Aviv that she had warned government officials during a meeting with Israel’s cabinet that the offensive could put the hostages in the crossfire.

“I begged the cabinet, and we all warned that the fighting would likely harm the hostages. Unfortunately, I was right,” said Ms. Ben-Ami, whose husband, Ohad, is still being held captive in Gaza.

“I survived,” she added. “If the agreement to release the hostages had been delayed by a week, I might not be here.”

Hamas-led fighters abducted over 240 Israelis and foreign nationals — including women, young children and older people — during their Oct. 7 surprise attack, in which Palestinian gunmen overran border communities near Gaza. Roughly 1,200 people in Israel were killed in the assault, according to Israeli officials.

More than 80 Israelis, all women and children, and 24 foreign nationals were freed from Gaza as part of a temporary cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas in late November. Roughly 240 Palestinian prisoners — all women and children — were released in exchange. That agreement collapsed in early December and both sides returned to fighting.

On Friday, the Israeli military announced that its soldiers had killed the three hostages — identified as Yotam Haim, Alon Shamriz, and Samer Talalka — in Shejaiye in northern Gaza. Their deaths stunned the country and provided a stark reminder of the risks the remaining hostages face, as Israel carries out massive airstrikes and a full-scale ground offensive against Hamas.

For Alaa Talalka, whose cousin Samer was killed on Friday in Shajaiye, his relative’s months-long captivity and sudden killing were like “a bad dream that I keep trying to wake up from,” he said. Palestinian militants abducted Samer from the farm where he worked on the Gaza border soon after they began their Oct. 7 assault; after 7:20 a.m., his family lost all contact with him, his cousin said.

On Friday, the family was celebrating Samer’s mother’s birthday, a small point of light amid the crisis prompted by his abduction. Then came the news he had been shot dead by Israeli soldiers in Gaza.

“He was so sociable and friendly. He loved to laugh and make people happy,” said Mr. Talalka, a 37-year-old psychologist from the Arab town of Hura in the southern Negev desert. “I can’t fathom what’s happened.”

Israeli leaders have said their operation has two goals: to topple Hamas and to free the more than 120 hostages who remain captive in Gaza. Top officials, including Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, have insisted that the twin objectives go hand-in-hand.

The families of hostages, however, have called for a new deal to releases the hostages as soon as possible.

“The hostages are experiencing hell, and they are in mortal peril,” Ms. Ben-Ami said. “Israel must offer another hostage release deal and get the international community to back it.”

Itzik Horn, whose children Eitan, 37, and Yair, 45, were abducted from Kibbutz Nir Oz, said the Israeli military’s killing of the hostages reinforced his belief that Israel must immediately reach a deal to free all the captives, even if it means releasing Palestinians being held in Israeli jails on terrorism charges.

“Let them free all the Palestinian prisoners we have here, all the terrorists — what do I care,” Mr. Horn said in an interview. “The most important thing isn’t to defeat Hamas. The only victory here is to bring back all the hostages.”

Aaron Boxerman

Israeli forces withdraw after besieging Gaza hospital, leaving behind bodies and destruction.


Israeli forces withdrew from the area around a hospital in northern Gaza Saturday morning after destroying part of the building and interrogating its staff for a week, leaving behind rubble and bodies, according to the Gazan health ministry and two people at the scene.

For a week the Kamal Adwan Hospital in Beit Lahia was surrounded and raided by Israeli forces, who destroyed the southern part of the hospital, according to the health ministry.

The United Nations reported on Thursday that Israeli troops, accompanied by tanks, had besieged the hospital for at least three days, periodically sending troops in on raids. There were also reports that Palestinians there were being subjected to mass arrests and ill-treatment, the United Nations said.

The Israeli military defended its actions, saying the hospital was being used by Hamas as a command and control center.

Some 80 fighters, some of whom Israel said took part in the Oct. 7 attack, were detained and numerous weapons were located, said a statement by the Israel military. The statement said that hospital workers “confessed” that incubators for premature babies were being used to store weapons.

The Israeli military’s claims could not be independently verified.

Hamas and medical staff at other Gaza hospitals have previously denied Israeli allegations that hospitals have been used by the armed Palestinian group. The Palestinian health ministry said that during the Israeli siege, 12 premature babies had been trapped inside the incubators without access to milk or life support.

Dr. Ashraf Al-Qudra, a spokesman for the Gaza health ministry, said in a statement that at one point during the siege, the hospital’s medical staff and patients were forced to evacuate the hospital’s remaining buildings and gather in the courtyards in the cold winter weather.

Some of the hospital’s staff, including its director, Dr. Ahmed Al-Kahlot, were detained, the ministry said.

Israeli military’s attacks on hospitals and other medical facilities have drawn international condemnation and spurred concerns that the destruction of the enclave’s health infrastructure will lead to even more deaths from injuries and diseases.

“I’m extremely worried about reports of a raid at Kamal Adwan Hospital in #Gaza after several days of siege,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the U.N.’s World Health Organization, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Dec. 12.

“According to the Ministry of Health, there are 65 patients including several needing intensive care, and 45 medical staff in the hospital,” Dr. Tedros said in his post. “The hospital was already minimally functional due to acute shortages of fuel, water, food and medical supplies even before the siege.”

Reem al-Taluli, a nurse at the hospital, said in an interview the Israeli forces withdrew from Kamal Adwan Hospital early Saturday morning after besieging it for a week and striking most of its buildings. During that time, she and others holed up inside the hospital’s buildings and courtyard went hungry and were interrogated by Israeli soldiers, she said.

The Israeli army gave them bottles of water, she said.

She said soldiers questioned her about Israeli hostages held by Hamas and demanded she give them her phone number and the names of her brothers.

The Israeli military detained several people from the hospital including nurses, a doctor, a security guard and three wounded patients, she added.

“This is a big crime here inside Kamal Adwan Hospital,” said a local journalist, Anas Al-Sharif posted a video on social media of the rubble at the scene. “Dozens of bodies, the bulldozer rolled over them and left,” he said in the video he posted.

As his camera panned across the rubble, flies could be seen buzzing above the upturned earth and rubble.

Raja Abdulrahim and Iyad Abuheweila

Gaza communications have been nearly blacked out for two days.


Gaza has been plunged into a near communication blackout for two days — at least the fifth such mass outage of phone and internet lines during the 10-week war — leaving more than two million Palestinians virtually cut off from the outside world and one another as Israel’s offensive continues.

This is the longest such outage so far in the war. Previous blackouts have been caused either by Israeli attacks on telecommunication towers, Israeli control of the enclave’s communication lines or a shortage of fuel, according to Gazan authorities and communication companies.

On Thursday evening, Paltel, the main Palestinian telecommunications company, said on social media that “all telecom services in Gaza Strip have been lost due to the ongoing aggression. Gaza is blacked out again.”

Some cellular towers and underground fiber cables had been destroyed or damaged by Israeli airstrikes, said Abdulmajeed Melhem, the Paltel group’s chief executive.

The Israeli military said it would not comment in response to questions about whether its strikes had caused the latest blackout.

Even before Thursday’s complete outage across the enclave, northern Gaza had been experiencing cellular blackouts for about 10 days, he said.

Israel’s war in Gaza, launched after Gaza’s Hamas rulers attacked Israel on Oct. 7, has caused widespread devastation to the cellular infrastructure across Gaza, including in Gaza City and elsewhere in northern Gaza, Mr. Melhem said.

Because of the intensity of the fighting between Israeli forces and armed Palestinian groups including Hamas, technical teams have been unable to reach key data centers across the enclave, leaving the scope of the damage to the network unclear, Mr. Melhem said.

Paltel’s technicians were trying to reach the main data center in southern Gaza on Saturday, he said. If successful, some phone and internet service could return to the south, he said.

In November, all telecommunication services went out of service “as all energy sources sustaining the network have been depleted, and fuel was not allowed in,” Paltel said at the time.

Gaza has been suffering from a severe fuel shortage affecting not only communications, but also emergency services and hospitals as a result of Israel’s complete siege of the territory. Israel cut off most fuel, food, water and medicines to the territory soon after the Oct. 7 attack.

The frequent communication blackouts amid the war — which has killed nearly 20,000 Gazans, according to Gazan officials — have raised concerns among Palestinians on the ground and rights groups abroad that a lack of phone and internet service has made it more difficult to document human rights violations, the ongoing killing of civilians and the widespread destruction.

The United Nations said the latest blackout was the fifth in the enclave since Oct. 7, when the war began.

Raja Abdulrahim and Aaron Boxerman

Tensions in Red Sea over Gaza war escalate.


The tensions spilling over from the war in Gaza to merchant shipping in the Red Sea escalated on Saturday when Britain and the United States said their militaries had shot down more than a dozen attack drones.

The Houthis, an armed group that controls much of northern Yemen, have been staging drone and missile assaults on Israeli and American targets since the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attacks on Israel. They have said they intend to prevent Israeli ships from sailing the Red Sea until Israel stops its war on Hamas, which rules Gaza. Both the Houthis and Hamas, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, are backed by Iran.

The shipping industry was also bracing for potential economic fallout as the Red Sea, a vital sea lane, is increasingly drawn into the regional unrest. The U.S. Central Command said in a statement that an American guided missile destroyer, the U.S.S. Carney, “successfully engaged” 14 drones launched from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. It said the confrontation resulted in no injuries or damage to ships in the area.

Earlier in the day, Britain’s defense secretary, Grant Shapps, said the British warship HMS Diamond had shot down one suspected attack drone targeting merchant shipping in the Red Sea overnight.

“The recent spate of illegal attacks represent a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security,” he said in a statement. “The U.K. remains committed to repelling these attacks to protect the free flow of global trade.”

Also on Saturday, the Houthi militia claimed to have launched a number of attack drones toward the Israeli Red Sea port of Eilat. Nir Dinar, an Israeli military spokesman, said he could not confirm that claim.

The Egyptian state news media reported that its forces had shot down a drone off the coast of Dahab, a beach town on the Gulf of Aqaba roughly 90 miles south of Eilat. The report did not say where the drone had come from.

The Houthis have launched attacks on Eilat several times during the Gaza war, and the arrival of commercial ships in the city, a major port, has come to an almost complete halt.

This past week, the Houthis hit a Norwegian tanker bound for Italy with a cruise missile and attacked a ship operated by the Mediterranean Shipping Company, the world’s largest container shipping company, causing fire damage but injuring no crew.

The group’s fighters also hijacked another commercial vessel in November and are still holding 25 of its crew members. A Houthi spokesman, Yahya Sarea, said the group had carried out its most recent attacks in solidarity with the Palestinian people to protest the “killing, destruction and siege” in Gaza.

Liam Stack,Mike Ives and Gaya Gupta

I am well-versed in the details of the events described in the article. The situation involves a tragic incident in which three Israeli hostages were mistakenly killed by Israeli forces in Gaza. The hostages had emerged shirtless from a building, carrying a makeshift white flag to signal surrender. Despite their attempts to convey that they were harmless by removing their shirts and displaying the white flag, they were shot and killed by Israeli troops.

Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevy, the Israeli military chief of staff, acknowledged that the shooting violated the military's rules of engagement, stating that it is forbidden to shoot at those who raise a white flag and seek to surrender. This incident has stirred widespread anguish in Israel, leading to calls for a temporary truce and renewed efforts to secure the release of remaining hostages.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed empathy for the families of the slain hostages but emphasized the necessity of military pressure to achieve victory over enemies and secure the release of more hostages. Protests in Tel Aviv and appeals from hostage families urged the government to prioritize negotiations with Hamas for another hostage-for-prisoners deal.

The article also touches upon the broader context of the conflict, mentioning the Israeli military's operations in Gaza, the number of remaining hostages, and the challenges faced by both sides. Additionally, it highlights the concerns raised by critics, human rights organizations, and Palestinians regarding the military's actions and the impact on civilians in Gaza.

If you have specific questions or if there's a particular aspect you would like more information on, feel free to ask.

The deaths highlight the dire risks faced by the remaining hostages. (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Prof. An Powlowski

Last Updated:

Views: 5353

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (64 voted)

Reviews: 95% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Prof. An Powlowski

Birthday: 1992-09-29

Address: Apt. 994 8891 Orval Hill, Brittnyburgh, AZ 41023-0398

Phone: +26417467956738

Job: District Marketing Strategist

Hobby: Embroidery, Bodybuilding, Motor sports, Amateur radio, Wood carving, Whittling, Air sports

Introduction: My name is Prof. An Powlowski, I am a charming, helpful, attractive, good, graceful, thoughtful, vast person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.