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IDF killing of 3 hostages ‘could have been prevented,’ investigation finds


Dec 29, 2023


The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday released the findings of an investigation into the deaths of three Israeli hostages who were shot in Gaza by IDF soldiers Dec. 15.

The investigation found that the IDF “failed in its mission to rescue the hostages,” and that “the entire chain of command feels responsible” and “regrets this outcome.”

While the soldiers “carried out the right action to the best of their understanding of the event at that moment,” the deaths “could have been prevented,” the IDF said.

The report on the investigation’s findings outlined what happened in the days leading up to the shooting, which outraged the Israeli public and intensified scrutiny of Israel’s military campaign. The United States has urged Israel to modify its operations in the Gaza Strip, citing concerns over the extreme civilian death toll.

IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari on Thursday said the results of the investigation had been shared with the families of the hostages, Yotam Haim, Samer Al-Talalka and Alon Shamriz.

On Dec. 10, IDF soldiers raided several buildings in Shejaiya, a neighborhood in eastern Gaza City that has seen fierce fighting (the IDF said last week it had gained operational control of Shejaiya). During the raid, IDF soldiers heard calls in Hebrew asking for help. They assessed that it was a trap by Hamas militants who sought to deceive them, the IDF report said. Such methods had been used in the past, it added.

On Dec. 14, the IDF said, signs reading “SOS” and “save three kidnapped people” were seen on a building that was about 650 feet from where the hostages were killed the next day.

During “intense fighting” on Dec. 15, an IDF soldier fired at three “figures” whom he had identified as a threat. Two were killed while one ran away, according to the investigation results. The soldier who fired the first shots “stood in a position with limited vision” of the hostages, the IDF said.

Commanders declared a cease-fire to try to identify the third person, who called out for help minutes later. Another cease-fire was ordered and the person “came out of a structure toward the force,” the IDF said. But two soldiers who had not heard the order to hold their fire “due to noise from a nearby tank” shot and killed the third person.

The hostages had emerged from the building shirtless and one was waving a white flag, the IDF said.

The Hamas militants who were holding the three men were killed in the raid on Dec. 10, the IDF said, citing analysis that included footage from a camera mounted on a dog that was sent into the building.

The three hostages had apparently fled the building after the Dec. 10 raid, the IDF said, “on an escape mission.”

“The Chief of Staff determined that the hits on the hostages could have been prevented,” the investigation results read. “Alongside this, the Chief of Staff clarified that there was no malice in the event, and the soldiers carried out the right action to the best of their understanding of the event at that moment.”

Hagari on Thursday praised the three hostages for “trying to do everything in their power to signal to us that they were in the area,” saying: “We are responsible for what happened.”

Noting that there are still 129 hostages in Gaza, he said the IDF has “the duty to draw lessons as quickly as possible.”


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