Israeli hostages killed in Gaza cried for help in Hebrew
The three hostages killed by Israeli soldiers in Gaza were shot even as they carried a white flag and cried for help in Hebrew, an army official said on Saturday.
Israel has been mourning the deaths of Yotam Haim, Alon Shamriz and Samer El-Talalqa, who were killed in a neighbourhood of Gaza City on Friday when troops mistook them for a threat, the army said.
Bringing back captives taken by Hamas militants on October 7 has been a key reason cited by the army for its assault on Gaza. The killing of the three hostages, all in their twenties, sparked protests in Tel Aviv.
On Saturday an army official detailed the findings of an ongoing preliminary investigation into their deaths in a virtual briefing to journalists.
The three "emerged tens of metres from one of our forces' positions", he said. "They're all without shirts and they have a stick with a white cloth on it," he said, asking not to be named.
A soldier sees them and "feels threatened and opens fire", the official said.
"He declares that they're terrorists. They (soldiers) open fire. Two are killed immediately, one is injured and runs back into the building."
The official said the soldiers heard "a cry for help... in Hebrew".
"Immediately, the battalion commander issues a ceasefire order. But again, there's another burst of fire towards the third figure and he also dies," the official said.
He added that it was possible the hostages "were abandoned or escaped".
He also said that several hundred metres (yards) away, "there was a building with markings of SOS on it," and the army was investigating whether there was a connection between the building and the hostages.
The army official said the killings were "against our rules of engagement".
He called it a "tragic" event and a "very hard day", but said there was "intense combat in the area" and that troops had been under "intense pressure".
"The terrorists, they are moving around in civilian attire. They're wearing sneakers and jeans. And there's a lot of ambushes there."
He said fighters had been "trying to pull us in to traps" with deceptive tactics.
"The rules of engagement are being sent out again to all the forces," he said.
The three hostages were among about 250 people taken during Hamas's October 7 attacks in Israel, which killed around 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli figures.
Vowing to destroy Hamas and bring back the hostages, Israel launched a massive military offensive against the Palestinian Islamist movement that has left much of the Gaza Strip in ruins. The territory's Hamas government says the war has killed at least 18,800 people, mostly women and children.