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Protesters march on Tel Aviv after Israeli military accidentally kills hostages in Gaza

The families of Israeli hostages are growing increasingly frustrated while more than 130 people are held in Gaza

Tom Watling
Saturday 16 December 2023 09:56 GMT
Friends and relatives of the Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip by the Hamas militant group attend a rally calling for their release, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023, in Tel Aviv, Israel
Friends and relatives of the Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip by the Hamas militant group attend a rally calling for their release, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023, in Tel Aviv, Israel (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Hundreds of protesters have marched to the Israeli war cabinet’s meeting spot after the military revealed they had accidentally killed three hostages in Gaza.

The hostages were killed in the Gaza City area of Shijaiyah, where troops have been engaged in fierce fighting with Hamas militants in recent days. The soldiers mistakenly identified the three Israelis as a threat and opened fire on them, said the army’s chief spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.

He said it was believed that the three had either fled their captors or been abandoned.

“Perhaps in the last few days, or over the past day, we still don’t know all the details, they reached this area,” Mr Hagari said. He said the army expressed “deep sorrow” and was investigating.

The three hostages were identified as young men who had been abducted from Israeli communities near the Gaza border — Yotam Haim, 28, Samer Al-Talalka 25, and Alon Shamriz, 26. The trio’s bodies were taken to the Hatzvi Centre at the Shura Camp, where they were identified.

Hundreds of protesters blocked Tel Aviv’s main highway late on Friday in a spontaneous demonstration calling for the return of the other hostages.

They later vented their anger outside the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv, where the three-pronged Israeli war cabinet meets to discuss the offensive operation in Gaza. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, defence minister Yoav Gallant and former Chief of the General Staff and opposition leader Benny Gantz make up the cabinet.

The protestors carried placards and candles, and chanted “today we learned what happens when there is no deal”, according to footage of the event.

The hostages’ plight has dominated public discourse in Israel since the 7 October attack by Hamas. Roughly 240 Israelis were taken hostage in Gaza on that day while a further 1,200 were killed.

Photographs of Israeli hostages being held by Hamas militants are projected on the walls of Jerusalem's Old City (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The families of the hostages have led a powerful public campaign calling on the government to do more to bring them home.

Anger over the mistaken killing of the three hostages — young men in their 20s — is likely to increase pressure on the government to renew Qatar-mediated negotiations with Hamas over swapping more captives for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.

Hamas released over 100 hostages for Palestinian prisoners in November. Nearly all those freed on both sides were women and children. Talks on further swaps broke down, with Hamas seeking the release of more veteran prisoners for female soldiers it is holding.

Israeli political and military leaders often say freeing all the hostages is their top aim in the war alongside destroying Hamas. However, they argue that their release can only be achieved through military pressure on Hamas, a claim that has sharply divided public opinion.

After negotiations broke down, Hamas said it will only free the remaining hostages, believed to number more than 130, if Israel ends the war and releases all Palestinian prisoners.

As of late November, Israel held nearly 7,000 Palestinians accused or convicted of security offenses, including hundreds rounded up since the start of the war.

Close to 19,000 Palestinians have been killed since 7 October during the Israeli aerial bombardment and subsequent invasion of Gaza, acording to the Hamas-run health ministry.

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