Hostages ‘were waving white flag’ when IDF shot them dead

Three Israeli hostages mistakenly shot dead by Israeli soldiers were waving an improvised white flag when troops opened fire, it has emerged.

Yotam Haim, Alon Shamriz and Samer El-Talalqa had been holding up a white cloth on a stick during the incident, the IDF has admitted.

An IDF official claimed that when the men emerged from a building shirtless and carrying the white cloth, soldiers felt threatened and opened fire, declaring that the men were terrorists.

“The hostages were fired upon against Israel’s rules of engagement,” the IDF official said as anger grows in the country over the killings of the men, held hostage by Hamas since October 7.

The men are thought to have been “abandoned or escaped” after two months in captivity in Gaza only to be killed by fellow Israelis in an operation in Shejaiya, Gaza City.

One of the men survived the initial shooting, making it into a nearby building despite sustaining injuries, where he called out for help in Hebrew.

A ceasefire order was then issued – but troops opened fire again and killed the man.

An IDF official said that an investigation is ongoing and “all the rules of engagement are being sent out again to all the forces”.

The account of how the hostages died also raised questions about the conduct of Israeli ground troops. Palestinians on several occasions reported that Israeli soldiers opened fire as civilians tried to flee to safety.

Mark Regev, an aide to Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said that Gaza is a “combat zone”. He added: “That doesn’t, of course, justify what’s happened and that’s why it’s being investigated at the highest level – it’s unacceptable what happened.”

On Friday night, hundreds protested in Tel Aviv over the incident.

As news reached families of Israeli hostages, they gathered outside the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv, calling for the government to facilitate the release of the remaining 130 hostages. Protestors took to the streets, chanting “Deal, now!” and “All of them – now!, whilst red paint was spilt across the streets by protestors, to symbolise the blood of Israeli hostages.

Merav Svirsky, the sister of Hamas-held hostage said: “I am dying of fear. We demand a deal now.”

Demonstrators waved Israel’s flag, brandished posters of Hamas’ hostages and held up placards, one of which read: “Every day, a hostage dies.”

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said the accident was an “unbearable tragedy” and ” all of Israel is grieving their loss this evening.”

Alon Shamriz, Samer Al-Talalka and Yotam Haim were killed by Israeli troops (Photo: Family handouts via AP)

He posted his statement on X, formerly Twitter adding: “My heart goes out to the bereaved families at this difficult time.”

Israel’s military expressed “deep sorrow” for their mistake after the bodies of the three men were transferred to Israel and confirmed to be Mr Haim, a 28-year-old heavy metal drummer, 25-year-old Mr El-Talalqa and Mr Shamriz, 26.

IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said in a briefing that he believed the three men shot by Israeli militants were either attempting to flee Hamas or had been abandoned by the terrorists.

Mr Hagari added: “During combat in Shejaiya, the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] mistakenly identified three Israeli hostages as a threat and as a result fired toward them and the hostages were killed.

“The IDF expresses deep sorrow regarding this disaster and shares in the grief of the families.”

The three men killed were among an estimated 240 people taken hostage during Hamas’s attack on Israel on 7 October raids into Israel.

Describing the events as a “tragic accident”, White House spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that these events should not be used to judge the IDF’s capabilities.

Mr Kirby added: “I don’t think that we can necessarily make some sort of broad judgement about the certain specific circumstances here and what that says about the ability for them to be more surgical and more precise.”