Israeli soldiers accidentally killed three hostages during fighting in the Gaza Strip. The armed forces mistakenly identified them as a threat and shot at them during an operation in the Hamas stronghold of Shejaiya in the north of the sealed-off coastal strip, Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari said on Friday evening. The tragic incident sparked spontaneous protests by hundreds of people in Israel. They accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government of not doing enough to free hostages.
Hagari explained that how the serious incident occurred on Friday morning was being investigated. However, after an initial reconstruction of the events, the military assumes that the three men either escaped from their captors or were intentionally left behind. The soldiers have been involved in heavy fighting there in recent days. Terrorists repeatedly tried to lure them into ambushes. It was also said that suicide bombers appeared who did not carry weapons.
"This is a sad and painful incident for all of us, and the army bears responsibility for everything that happened," Hagari continued. The three victims were kidnapped along with around 240 other people to the Gaza Strip in the unprecedented massacre by Hamas terrorists and other groups in Israel on October 7th. More than 1,200 people were killed in the terrorist attack. Israel responded with massive air strikes and began a ground offensive in late October. According to the latest Hamas figures, around 18,700 people have been killed in attacks in the Gaza Strip so far.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the deaths of the three hostages at the hands of his own compatriots as an “unbearable tragedy.” "The entire State of Israel is in mourning tonight. My heart goes out to the grieving families in their difficult time of grief," Netanyahu wrote on social media on Friday evening. "Even on this difficult evening, we will tend to our wounds, learn the lessons and continue with our utmost efforts to bring all our hostages home safely," Netanyahu said.
While the general Israeli public continues to support the war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, there are increasing doubts among family members of the hostages. During the spontaneous protests in Tel Aviv, it was said that with a new hostage deal, like the one that existed at the end of November, incidents such as the death of three hostages at the hands of one's own soldiers could be prevented. "Her time is running out! Bring her home now," the people shouted.
According to Israeli estimates, 112 hostages are currently being held in the Gaza Strip. Hamas is still not releasing the bodies of 20 abductees, Netanyahu's office said on Friday. How one knows which of the abductees are dead was not mentioned.
Israel's war aims are to destroy Hamas and repatriate the remaining hostages. But while Israel's military was able to retrieve the bodies of several hostages from the Gaza Strip, it has only been able to rescue one living hostage, a soldier, according to the Wall Street Journal. The US government described the deaths of three hostages at the hands of soldiers as "heartbreaking" and "tragic".
“Of course, this is not an outcome that anyone wanted,” said National Security Council communications director John Kirby. However, the case is not suitable for making a general judgment about whether the Israeli military is able to act precisely in the Gaza Strip, Kirby said.
After talks with the Israeli leadership, the US government recently expressed the expectation that Israel would move from "high-intensity" military action to "more targeted" military operations. However, Washington did not specify a time period for this.
According to Al-Jazeera, a cameraman from the Arabic television station was also killed in an Israeli drone strike in Khan Yunis in the south of the Gaza Strip. According to the European news agency association EANA, a cameraman from the Turkish news agency Anadolu Bei was also killed in air strikes by the Israeli military. Since the start of the Gaza war, 63 journalists have been killed, according to the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin begins a multi-day trip to the Middle East this weekend. The Pentagon announced on Friday that the stations would be Israel, Qatar and Bahrain. In Israel he also wanted to talk to the military leadership about a possible end to the intensive ground operations and air strikes. In Qatar, Austin wants to meet, among other things, US forces stationed there. Austin will also visit the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, which is currently underway in the Eastern Mediterranean. In Bahrain, the minister wants to visit the Central Command of the US Naval Forces.
This should involve efforts to convene multilateral coalitions to respond to “aggressions at sea” that threaten shipping and the global economy. Since the outbreak of the Gaza war, the Iran-backed Houthi rebels have repeatedly attacked Israel with drones and rockets, among other things. They are also threatening to prevent ships of any nationality from passing through the Red Sea on their way to Israel in the future. The US is considering increased cooperation with partners in the region and plans to announce details in the coming days.