Israel says it mistakenly killed three Israeli captives in Gaza

AFP , Saturday 16 Dec 2023

Israel said its troops had killed three Gaza captives after mistaking them for a threat, with the armed forces expressing "deep remorse" over a "tragic incident" that sparked protests in Tel Aviv.

Relatives and supporters of captives held by Palestinian militants demonstrate outside the Israeli M
Relatives and supporters of captives held by Palestinian militants demonstrate outside the Israeli Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv. Photo: AP


The Israeli occupation military said Yotam Haim, Alon Shamriz and Samer El-Talalqa were shot during operations in a neighbourhood of Gaza City.

The trio were among those taken during Hamas's Al-Aqsa Flood operation into Israel on 7 October.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the death of the three captives as an "unbearable tragedy", while the White House called the incident a "tragic mistake".

As news of the incident spread, hundreds of people gathered at Israel's ministry of defence in the city of Tel Aviv in protest.

"Every day, a hostage dies," read one of the placards.

Israel has killed at least 18,800 people, two-thirds of them women and children, and reduced swathes of Gaza to rubble, since the wart started in October.

In Tel Aviv, relatives of captives called on the government to reach an accord to allow more people to be released.

In November, a short-lived truce agreement mediated by Qatar, Egypt and the United States saw more than 100 captives released in exchange for Palestinians children and women held in Israeli jails.

News platform Axios on Friday reported that the director of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, David Barnea, was due to meet this weekend in Europe with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.

Axios said the officials would discuss resuming negotiations for a deal to secure the release of the remaining captives.

In the Gaza Strip, fierce fighting continued, with Hamas saying they had blown up a house containing Israeli soldiers in the southern city of Khan Yunis.

Al Jazeera's journalist, Samer Abudaqa, had been killed and another, Wael Dahdouh, had been wounded by "shrapnel from an Israeli missile attack" in Khan Yunis.

More than 60 journalists and media staff have died since the war began, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

"We were reporting, we were filming, we had finished and we were with the civil defence, but when we were on the way back, they hit us with a missile," said Dahdouh, who lost his wife, two children and grandchild earlier in an Israeli strike.

Trickle of aid 

The United States, which provides billions of dollars in military aid to Israel has voiced growing concern over civilian casualties.

In Washington, US President Joe Biden reiterated calls for greater care.

"I want them to be focused on how to save civilian lives -- not stop going after Hamas, but be more careful," said Biden.

Biden's top security advisor Jake Sullivan was visiting Israel and the West Bank to drive that message home.

"We do not believe that it makes sense for Israel, or is right for Israel, to... reoccupy Gaza over the long term," Sullivan said after meeting Israeli leaders.

In the face of growing international pressure, Israel announced a "temporary measure" allowing aid to be delivered directly to Gaza through the Karm Abu Salem border crossing.

Since the war began, a trickle of aid has squeezed into Gaza through the Rafah crossing with Egypt.

Aid agencies have said the volume is nothing like enough to help the estimated 1.9 million Gazans displaced by Israel.

US National Security Advisor Sullivan called the decision to reopen Karm Abu Salem as a "significant step".

The United States hopes "this new opening will ease congestion and help facilitate the delivery of life-saving assistance", Sullivan added.

A World Health Organization representative said the announcement was "very good news".

Sullivan also travelled to the West Bank to meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, who said Gaza must remain an "integral part" of the Palestinian state.

Abbas's Palestinian Authority has partial administrative control in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Washington still hopes that it can resume control of Gaza as part of a renewed push for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- a solution that Netanyahu has resolutely opposed.

The conflict has appeared to push any peace deal further out of view.

In occupied Jerusalem, for the first time in weeks, sirens warned of incoming rockets from Gaza.

Residents rushed to safety, and the rockets all hit open ground or were intercepted by air defences, the occupation army said.

Multiple Western governments issued a joint statement demanding that Israel "take concrete steps to halt unprecedented violence by Israeli settlers" in the West Bank.

Attacks by terrorist settlers since early October have killed eight Palestinians and wounded 83.

Israel's police force said it had suspended several officers after they severely assaulted a journalist for Turkish news agency Anadolu as he was trying to take photos of Palestinians praying in occupied east Jerusalem.

Red Sea shipping disrupted 

The war continues to be felt across the Middle East.

Global shipping lines Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd announced they were halting voyages through the Red Sea following attacks on vessels by Yemeni rebels.

Yemen's Huthi rebels struck a cargo ship in the Red Sea on Friday, causing a fire on deck, the latest in a spate of near-daily attacks in the commercially vital waterway.

The rebels later said they fired missiles at two other ships in the Red Sea.

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