Amid the fog of war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip on Friday, Israeli troops mistakenly fired upon and killed three people who were later identified as Israeli hostages taken by Hamas back on Oct. 7. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed the killings in statement, calling them an “unbearable tragedy.”
According to Israeli forces, the incident took place in Shejaiye in northern Gaza, long known as a Hamas stronghold. In a statement, the Israeli military said soldiers “mistakenly identified three Israeli hostages as a threat.”
“As a result, the troops fired toward them and they were killed,” the military’s statement said. “During searches and checks in the area in which the incident occurred, a suspicion arose over the identities of the deceased. Their bodies were transferred to Israeli territory for examination, after which it was confirmed that they were three Israeli hostages.”
Israel’s military identified the hostages as Yotam Haim and Samer Talalka, from Kfar Aza and Nir Am, two kibbutzes near the border of the northern end of the Gaza Strip. The third hostage killed was not identified by his or her family.
So far, 110 hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7 have been freed – the vast majority as part of a swap for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Another 132 hostages remain in captivity under Hamas in Gaza, some of whom have likely already died. The accounts of extreme conditions by freed hostages in media coverage since the week-long ceasefire have only heightened the pressure on Israel to bring the rest home, as will Friday’s losses in combat.
In the wake of Friday’s accidental killings, Netanyahu urged for grace for Israeli soldiers as well, who he said “are devoted to the sacred mission of returning our hostages, even at the cost of their lives.”
“Even on this difficult evening,” Netanyahu said in the statement, “we will bind up our wounds, learn the lessons and continue with a supreme effort to return all our hostages home safely.”