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Israel-Palestine war: Israel mistakenly shoots dead three hostages in northern Gaza

The Israeli military says the captives had either escaped or had been abandoned by their captors before being mistaken as a threat
Israeli soldiers operate in the Gaza Strip amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas on 14 December (Israeli military/Handout via Reuters)

The Israeli army killed three hostages in the Shujaiya neighbourhood of northern Gaza on Friday after mistaking them for a "threat", according to Daniel Hagari, a military spokesperson.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that the hostages had been shot after managing to escape their captors. 

Israel is "reviewing" the incident according to the military spokesperson.

"Immediate lessons from the event have been learned, which have been passed on to all IDF troops in the field. The IDF expresses deep remorse over the tragic incident and sends the families its heartfelt condolences," Hagari posted on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. 

The hostages have been identified as Alon Shamriz, 26; Samer Fuad El-Talalka, 24; and Yotam Haim, 28. Haim and Shamriz were abducted from Kibbutz Kfar Azza and Talalka was taken from Hura. 

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"We believe that the three fled or were abandoned by terrorists who held them captive. There was a tragic error here that we will investigate fully," Hagari said, according to Haaretz.

Hamas-led attacks on southern Israel on 7 October killed 1,200 people. Most of those who died were civilians and included children and elderly Israelis, as well as dozens of foreign nationals. Around 240 hostages were taken back to Gaza during the attack. Some of the captives were freed during a truce but over 100 are still being held. 

Since the Hamas-led attack, an Israeli offensive has wrought massive destruction across Gaza, displacing most of the embattled territory's 2.3m population. At least 18,787 Palestinians have been killed, among whom around 70 percent are women and children.

Before Israel announced it killed the three hostages, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said it had revised the number of hostages in Gaza to 132. Israel considers the 20 dead to still be hostages.

"Together with the entire people of Israel, I bow my head in deep sorrow and mourn the death of three of our dear sons who were kidnapped," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement about the killed hostages.

"My heart goes out to the grieving families in their difficult time."

White House national security council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that the news of the killing was "heartbreaking and tragic" and that US President Joe Biden had been briefed on the issue.

Intense fighting 

Earlier on Friday, an attack near a school run by the United Nations refugee agency for Palestinians (Unrwa) in Khan Younis killed at least 33 people, according to medics at Nasser Hospital. 

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Most of those killed were children and women, Al Jazeera reported.

Heavy clashes were also reported to have taken place between Israeli troops and Palestinian fighters east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Friday, according to Palestinian and Israeli media. 

Clashes have been reported in northern and central areas of the Gaza Strip on Friday, as well as in Khan Younis, but so far, less fighting has taken place in Rafah, the southernmost town bordering Egypt. 

An Israeli drone strike also killed one Al Jazeera journalist and wounded another on Friday.

Al Jazeera's Gaza bureau chief Wael al-Dahdouh and videographer Samer Abu Daqqa were hit while covering the aftermath of an earlier strike on a UN school sheltering displaced people in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.

Footage of al-Dahdouh at the Nasser Hospital after the attack showed him conscious and receiving treatment for an injury to his arm. His injuries do not appear to be life-threatening, Al-Jazeera reported.

Abu Daqqa later succumbed to his injuries.

Meanwhile, Hamas's armed wing said it had prepared for a long war with Israel, the group's former chief and senior leader told a Turkish newspaper on Friday.

Khaled Mashaal said the group has 35,000 fighters who have planned to fight a war "that would last months".

The besieged enclave has been under a complete telecommunications and internet blackout since Wednesday evening. 

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