Thousands of protestors have taken to the streets of Tel Aviv following the killing of three young Israeli hostages by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) in a friendly fire incident in Gaza. The demonstrators, who set up tents on Friday morning in front of the Kirya military base where the Israeli cabinet holds its meetings, are calling on the government to reach a deal with Hamas to secure the release of the remaining hostages. They have vowed to remain there until a deal is reached, with some saying they will stay until all the hostages have been returned. There is wide public support for prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to strike a deal to bring the hostages home; only a small group on the far-right object to any deal that would include the release of Palestinian terrorists.
The Israeli hostages, Yotam Haim, Alon Shimriz and Samer Talalka, were killed after the Israeli army mistook them for terrorists. The incident occurred in Shejaiya, the Gaza neighbourhood at the centre of intense fighting between the IDF and Hamas over the past two weeks.
The IDF believes that the trio, abducted by Hamas on 7 October, might have been abandoned by their captors or somehow managed to escape. They walked out of hiding bare-chested – to show soldiers that they were not carrying explosives – and holding a makeshift white flag. An IDF marksman mistakenly identified them as a threat and shot two of them. The third hostage ran into hiding, yelling ‘help’ in Hebrew. Israeli forces advanced towards him and killed him anyway.
IDF chief of staff Herzi Halevi called it ‘a difficult and painful event’. The soldiers who shot the hostages were operating against the rules of engagement, Halevi insisted, saying that it is IDF policy not to shoot anyone who surrenders.
The tragic incident took place only days after a difficult battle in the same neighbourhood saw nine soldiers killed.