Israeli troops who accidentally shot three militant hostages should not have opened fire because the shots “did not match the risk” they faced during the firefight, according to a finding released Thursday by the Israeli army.
The shooting took place in Gaza less than two weeks ago, shocking the Israeli nation and fueling protests aimed at pressuring the government to reach a deal with Hamas for the release of the remaining hostages.
“The shooting of the hostages should not have taken place, this shooting did not correspond to the risk and the situation,” wrote the chief of staff, Lieutenant-Colonel Herzi Halevi. “However, this was conducted under complex circumstances and intense combat conditions, under prolonged threat.”
The three men were shirtless and coming out of a building flying a white flag when Israeli troops encountered them in Shejaiya, an area where clashes between soldiers and militants had taken place for several days. Two of the hostages were shot immediately, and the third ran back into the building screaming for help in Hebrew.
A commander ordered troops to cease fire, but two soldiers who failed to hear the order because of the noise of a nearby tank shot the third person, Halevi wrote. It was only later confirmed that they were indeed three Israelis, Yotam Haim, Samer Talalka and Alon Shamriz.
Halevi said commanders must ensure operational instructions are clear “so we don’t commit suicide.”
“The (military) failed in their mission to rescue those kidnapped in this incident,” Halevi concluded. “The entire chain of command feels responsible for this difficult event, is saddened by this outcome and shares the grief of the three families of those kidnapped.”
∎ Troops operating in the Khan Younis area, south of Gaza, located several tunnel entrances, including one into a mosque, the Israeli army said. The army has repeatedly accused Hamas of using mosques and public buildings as military headquarters and hideouts.
∎ Thousands of Israeli teenagers chanted “Everyone, now” as they marched near the Knesset in Jerusalem to call for the return of Gaza hostages.
Protests at Gaza Airport in New York, Los Angeles:Some travelers forced to walk to terminals
Israel ‘regrets damage caused to civilians’ in refugee camp attack
The Israeli military apologized Thursday for a strike that killed dozens of people this week in the Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza, admitting that the attack likely caused “unintentional harm” to civilians. The military released a statement to USA TODAY saying Israeli warplanes struck two targets near where Hamas militants were found. Steps were taken to “mitigate harm to uninvolved civilians” in the area, the military said. A preliminary investigation found that other buildings near the target were hit and “likely caused unintended harm to other uninvolved civilians.”
The army said the General Staff Investigation and Evaluation Mechanism, responsible for investigating exceptional events that occurred during fighting, was examining the attack.
“The Israeli military regrets the damage caused to uninvolved civilians and is working to draw conclusions and learn lessons from this event,” the statement said.
A military declaration obtained by Israel KAN 11 TV said the weapons used in the assault on the Maghazi refugee camp “did not match the nature of the attack, so significant collateral damage was caused – which could have been avoided.”
Sunday night’s strike destroyed several homes in the camp that were filled with refugees who had fled northern Gaza under Israeli evacuation orders. At least 70 people were killed, according to Gaza’s health ministry. Israel says it ordered evacuations before such strikes, but local residents told Al Jazeera there was no warning before the bombs hit the camp.
Israeli singer ready to break through killed in Gaza
An Israeli reservist killed in Gaza this week had successfully auditioned for a television show selecting Israel’s entry for the hugely popular Eurovision song contest. Shaul Greenglick, 26, performed in Israeli army fatigues on “Israel’s Rising Star” on December 3 while on war leave. He sang a popular ballad and was propelled to the next round in the process, the The Jerusalem Post reported.
“It’s reassuring to have someone like you wearing the uniform,” singer and competition judge Keren Peles told Greenglick. “I would be happy to see you represent Israel at Eurovision.” Peles later said that Greenglick was forced to drop out of competition due to his military duties.
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