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Israeli military says mistakenly killed hostages were holding white flags

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16 December 2023, ABC / AP / Reuters

The three Israeli hostages mistakenly killed in Gaza by Israeli forces had been holding up a white flag, according to an initial inquiry into the incident, a military official said on Saturday.

Meanwhile, United States national security adviser Jake Sullivan met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the besieged enclave’s post-war future, which, according to a senior US official, could include bringing back Palestinian security forces driven from their jobs in Gaza by Hamas in its 2007 takeover.

Here are some of the latest developments:

  • Israeli military says mistakenly killed hostages held up white flags
  • Dozens killed in Israel airstrikes, Palestinian media reports
  • The military also says it will open a probe into the killing of two Palestinians at close range after a human rights group shared video footage
  • Al Jazeera television says an Israeli strike killed one of its journalists in Gaza
  • United States national security adviser Jake Sullivan met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss Gaza’s postwar future

Israeli military says mistakenly killed hostages held up white flags

The three hostages killed mistakenly had been holding up a white flag when they were killed by Israeli forces, according to an initial inquiry into the incident, a military official said on Saturday.

The incident happened in an area of intense combat where Hamas militants operate in civilian attire and use deception tactics, the official added.

The hostages were fired upon against Israel’s rules of engagement, they said.

A soldier saw the hostages emerging tens of meters from Israeli forces in the area of Shejaiya, the official said.

“They’re all without shirts and they have a stick with a white cloth on it. The soldier feels threatened and opens fire. He declares that they’re terrorists, they (forces) open fire, two are killed immediately,” the military official said.

They said the third hostage was wounded and retreated into a nearby building where he called 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.

“This was against our rules of engagement.”

The Israeli army’s chief spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, previously said Israeli troops found three hostages in Gaza City and erroneously identified them as a threat.

He added it was not clear if they had escaped 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.

The hostages were killed on Friday in the area of Shijaiyah, where troops have been engaged in fierce fighting with Hamas militants in recent days.

The army expressed “deep sorrow” and was investigating, he said.

“After the shooting during a scan and examination, an immediate suspicion arose regarding the identity of the dead and their bodies were quickly transferred for examination in Israel and there the hostages were identified,” he said.

The three hostages were identified as three young men who had been abducted from Israeli communities near the Gaza border — 28-year-old Yotam Haim, 25-year-old Samer Al-Talalka and 26-year-old Alon Shamriz.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called their deaths an “unbearable tragedy” vowing to continue “with a supreme effort to return all the hostages home safely”.

Hamas and other militants abducted more than 240 people in an October 7 attack that triggered the war, and the hostages’ plight has dominated public discourse ever since.

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

Demonstrations in solidarity with the hostages and their families take place nearly every day.

Israeli political and military leaders often say freeing all the hostages is their top aim in the war, alongside destroying Hamas.

Still, in seven weeks since ground troops pushed into northern Gaza, troops have not rescued any hostages, though they freed one early in the conflict and have found the bodies of several.

Hamas released more than 100 in swaps for Palestinian prisoners last month, and more than 130 are believed to still be in captivity, 20 of whom Israel says it believes are dead.

Dozens killed in Israel airstrikes, Palestinian media reports

Dozens of Palestinians were killed in Gaza on Saturday in air strikes by Israel, Palestinian media said.

At least 14 people died from strikes that hit two houses on Old Gaza Street in Jabalia, and dozens were killed in a strike that hit another home in Jabalia, the official WAFA news agency said.

The Palestinian agency reported a large number of civilians were trapped under rubble.

Israeli military said its aircraft targeted a building in Jabalia after its forces came under fire and a number of Hamas militants were identified on the roof. It was unclear if the building was one of those that WAFA reported hit.

The military said its forces killed militants holed up in two schools in Gaza City and raided apartments in Khan Younis, in the south, stocked with weapons, and uncovered what it described as underground infrastructure used by Hamas.

Reuters could not independently verify the reports.

Close to 19,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel, according to Gaza health authorities, with thousands more feared buried under rubble.

The death toll in Israel since the October 7 attack by Hamas stands about 1,332, including a number of soldiers, according to Israeli officials.

Gaza residents reported another night of intense fighting and bombardment the length of the enclave on Friday, including in Sheijaia, Sheikh Radwan, Zeitoun, Tuffah and Beit Hanoun in the north, and in the centre and northern fringes of the main southern city Khan Younis.

“The Gaza Strip turned into a ball of fire overnight, we could hear explosions and gunshots echoing from all directions,” Ahmed, 45, an electrician and father of six, told Reuters from a shelter in central Gaza.

“They can destroy homes and roads and kill civilians from the air or through blind tank shelling, but when they come face to face with the resistance, they lose.”

Israeli military opens probe after videos show troops killing two Palestinians at close range

Israel on Friday said it was opening a military police investigation into the killing of two Palestinians in the West Bank after an Israeli human rights group posted videos that appeared to show Israeli troops killing the men — one who was incapacitated and the second unarmed — during a military raid in a West Bank refugee camp.

The B’Tselem human rights group accused the army of carrying out a pair of “illegal executions”.

The security camera videos show two Israeli military vehicles pursuing a group of Palestinians in the Faraa refugee camp in the northern West Bank.

One man, who appears to be holding a red canister, is gunned down by soldiers. B’Tselem identified the man as 25-year-old Rami Jundob.

The military jeep then approaches Mr Jundob as he lies bleeding on the ground and fires multiple shots at him until he is still.

Soldiers then approach a man identified by B’Tselem as 36-year-old Thaar Shahin as he hides behind a car. They shoot at him from close range.

B’Tselem said that Mr Shahin was killed instantly and Mr Jundob died of his wounds the next day.

Israel’s military said its military police unit opened an investigation into the December 8 shootings “on the suspicion that during the incident, shots were fired not in accordance with the law”.

It said the findings would be referred to a military prosecutor, an indication that criminal charges could be filed.

Israel rarely prosecutes such cases, and human rights groups say soldiers rarely receive serious punishments even if wrongdoing is found.

In a high-profile case, an Israeli soldier was convicted of manslaughter and served a reduced nine-month sentence in jail after shooting a badly wounded Palestinian who was lying on the ground in 2016.

Al Jazeera journalist killed

Al Jazeera television said on Friday an Israeli strike killed one of its journalists in Gaza, Palestinian cameraman Samer Abu Daqqa.

The strike also wounded the Qatari-owned network’s chief correspondent in Gaza, Wael Dahdouh.

The two were reporting on the grounds of a school in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis when the strike hit, the network said.

Abu Daqqa was unable to get to safety or medical treatment and died of his wounds before ambulances were allowed in the area, Al Jazeera said.

Al Jazeera said Israeli drones fired missiles at the school. Reuters could not verify the details of the incident.

Israel’s military did not respond to a request for comment.

Three Gazan rescue workers were also killed in a strike on the school, said the civil defence department, part of the Hamas-controlled interior ministry. Reuters could not immediately establish the sequence of events.

Before Abu Daqqa’s death, at least 63 journalists had been killed since October 7, according to the media freedom organisation, The Committee to Protect Journalists.

They include 56 Palestinians, four Israelis and three Lebanese.

Asked about the killing of Abu Daqqa, White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters: “We still have no indications that the Israelis are deliberately going after journalists covering this war.”

US adviser meets with Palestinian president

United States national security adviser Jake Sullivan also met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the besieged enclave’s postwar future, which, according to a senior US official, could include bringing back Palestinian security forces driven from their jobs in Gaza by Hamas in its 2007 takeover.

American and Israeli officials have been vague in public about how Gaza will be run if Israel achieves its goal of ending Hamas control.

The notion that Palestinian security forces could return was floated as one of several ideas.

It appeared to be the first time Washington offered details on its vision for security arrangements in the enclave.

Any role for Palestinian security forces in Gaza is bound to elicit strong opposition from Israel, which seeks to maintain an open-ended security presence there and says it won’t allow a postwar foothold for the Abbas-led Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank but is deeply unpopular with Palestinians.

In meetings with Israeli leaders on Thursday and Friday, Mr Sullivan discussed a timetable for winding down the intense combat phase of the war.

Israel’s defence minister Yoav Gallant told Mr Sullivan that it would take months to destroy Hamas, but he did not say whether his estimate referred to the current phase of heavy air strikes and ground battles.

Mr Sullivan said on Friday that “there is no contradiction between saying the fight is going to take months and also saying that different phases will take place at different times over those months, including the transition from the high-intensity operations to more targeted operations”.

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Article source: ABC / AP / Reuters | 17.12.23

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000