By Allen Zhong
Israel vowed to continue the war in Gaza following an incident in which three Israelis held hostages were mistakenly killed.
It’s impossible to bring hostages back without continuing the war, Chief of General Staff Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi said Saturday.
“We entered into our fight in order to dismantle the enemy across the border, and to bring home our men and women being held hostage. Without this determined fighting, we will not be able to bring back the hostages and return security to the border communities. We must continue to fight courageously, without losing sight of our objectives,” he said in a statement.
The incident is a “difficult and painful event” and shows the complexity of the war in Gaza, Mr. Halevi added.
“We feel the deep sorrow of the families for the death of the hostages. The IDF, and I as its commander, are responsible for what happened, and we will do everything to prevent such incidents from recurring in future combat,” he said.
Mr. Halevi confirmed that the three victims—Yotam Haim, Alon Shamriz, and Samer El-Talalka—were shirtless and held a white flag before they were shot to death.
“I think the three hostages did everything possible so that we would understand–they moved around shirtless so that we wouldn’t suspect them of carrying explosives and they held a white cloth, but the tension overcame all of the above,” Mr. Halevi said in the statement.
3 Israelis Held Hostage Killed
In a Thursday press statement, the Israel Defense Forces confirmed the killing of the three hostages.
“During combat in Shejaiya, the IDF mistakenly identified 3 Israeli hostages as a threat and as a result, fired toward them, and the hostages were killed,” the IDF explained.
Following the shooting incident, Israeli troops gathered the three bodies and transferred them to Israeli-controlled territory where the Israeli side was able to identify their remains as individuals abducted during the Oct. 7 attacks when Hamas terrorists breached the Gaza–Israel barrier and killed over 1,000 people and took hundreds more captive.
“The IDF began reviewing the incident immediately. The IDF emphasizes that this is an active combat zone in which ongoing fighting over the last few days has occurred,” the IDF statement continues. “Immediate lessons from the event have been learned, which have been passed on to all IDF troops in the field. The IDF expresses deep remorse over the tragic incident and sends the families its heartfelt condolences. Our national mission is to locate the missing and return all the hostages home.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also expressed his condolences in a Friday statement.
“Together with the entire people of Israel, I bow my head in deep sorrow and mourn the death of three of our hostages, including Yotam Haim and Samer Fouad Talalka. This is an unbearable tragedy and all of Israel is grieving their loss this evening. My heart goes out to the bereaved families at this difficult time,” Mr. Netanyahu said.
Several other hostages have been killed amid Israeli airstrikes and ground combat throughout the Gaza Strip over the past two months.
Israeli forces have been able to rescue numerous other hostages during combat operations. International negotiators also arranged a seven-day ceasefire in November, during which Hamas and other Palestinian groups in Gaza released more than 100 hostages, including 81 Israelis and 24 from other nationalities in exchange for 240 Palestinians who’d been held in Israeli prisons.
Ryan Morgan and the Associated Press contributed to this report.