There was not malice in the actions of Israeli soldiers who mistakenly killed three hostages in Gaza, according to IDF chief of staff
Read Full Article at RT.com
Chief of the General Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces Herzl Halevi, however, has insisted there was “no malice” in the event
The IDF published a report on Thursday detailing the accidental killing of three Israeli hostages by its troops in Gaza earlier this month. The chief of the General Staff of the IDF, Herzl ‘Herzi’ Halevi, noted that their deaths “could have been prevented.”
On December 15, Israeli troops who were moving through the Palestinian enclave fighting Hamas militants encountered three unarmed shirtless men waving a white flag. However, the IDF forces failed to recognize them as hostages seeking help, mistaking them for enemy combatants, and opened fire.
All three men were killed and later identified as Israeli nationals: Yotam Haim, Alon Shamriz and Samer Talalka. They are believed to have been captured by Hamas forces on October 7 when the Palestinian militants launched their initial surprise attack on Israel.
In the latest report, Halevi has pointed out that while the IDF had failed in its mission to protect the three hostages on December 15, he insisted that there was “no malice in the event” and that the soldiers acted to the best of their ability and understanding of the situation at that moment.
However, the report also claims that the Israeli command ranks had been informed of the presence of hostages in the area and had even taken actions “to prevent strikes on locations suspected of having hostages.” Israel’s forces had also reportedly found several signs and letters asking for help in Hebrew.
Despite this knowledge, forces on the ground apparently still had “insufficient awareness” of the possibility that hostages would try to approach them or that they would even encounter them at all outside of a designated hostage rescue operation.
According to the investigation, one specific Israeli soldier had initially fired towards the three hostages after they were “identified as threats.” Two of the hostages were killed on the spot and the third fled. The battalion commander then gave an order to hold fire to try and identify the third person.
After the surviving hostage started screaming “help” in Hebrew, the commander reiterated his order to hold fire and told the man to come towards the IDF’s position. However, the hostage was then shot dead by two other soldiers who claim they did not hear the commander’s orders to hold fire “due to noise from a nearby tank.”
Halevi has concluded that the killing of the hostages should not have happened and wasn’t warranted by the risk of the situation. IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus also stated earlier this month that Israeli soldiers are now being told to “exercise additional caution” when encountering people in civilian clothes.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called the incident an “unbearable tragedy” and has vowed to return all remaining hostages home safely.