Israel says IDF killing hostages was 'unspeakable tragedy' but vows to press on with 'unrelenting pressure on Hamas'

16 December 2023, 15:09

Eylon Levy said the three hostages being killed by the IDF was a 'tragedy'
Eylon Levy said the three hostages being killed by the IDF was a 'tragedy'. Picture: LBC/Handout

By Kit Heren

An Israeli spokesperson has told LBC that the IDF killing of three hostages was an "unspeakable tragedy" but that the government will continue with its strategy of putting "unrelenting military pressure on Hamas".

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Samer Talalka, 22, Yotam Haim, 28, and Alon Shamriz, 26, were killed after being 'mistakenly identified' as a threat when they approached Israeli soldiers "shirtless and waving a white flag".

An IDF official said on Saturday that "the hostages were fired upon against Israel's rules of engagement", citing an initial investigation into the deaths. Protests erupted in Tel Aviv on Friday night after news emerged of the shootings.

Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy told LBC's Sangita Myska on Saturday that the men's deaths were "an unspeakable and unbearable tragedy".

"The whole of Israeli society is in a lot of shock and pain today," he said. "I can say last night at Shabbat dinner when the news came through no one could speak for five minutes because everyone was stunned into silence."

Read more: Israeli hostages mistakenly shot dead 'against rules of engagement' by IDF while 'shirtless and waving white flag'

Read more: Bodies of two Israeli hostages taken in October 7 Hamas onslaught recovered from Gaza

Sangita Myska probes Israeli government spokesman on why cessation of fighting was brought to an end

Mr Levy added that he "question that everyone in the country is asking [is] how on earth such an awful mistake could have been made.

"The IDF is investigating, we’re learning lessons, and we repeat our demand that the IDF must release the remaining 129 hostages immediately and unconditionally."

One of the men was killed even after shouting 'help' in Hebrew, having been wounded and seen his two fellow hostages shot dead by the IDF.

Mr Levy said that Hamas have set ambushes before, and even played recordings of Hebrew voices to confuse IDF troops.

The three Israeli hostages killed by the IDF
The three Israeli hostages killed by the IDF. Picture: Handout

But despite the tragedy, Mr Levy said that the Israeli strategy remains "to continue putting unrelenting military pressure on Hamas" to release the remaining hostages.

Mr Levy would not confirm if Israel would return to negotiations for another truce that saw 110 hostages released in the last week of November.

He said: "Hamas started this war on October 7, and it restarted this war on December 1. We said all throughout that hostage release pause we would like to see that continue to get at least all the women and children out and we had lined up enough violent offenders in our jails as part of that exchange to facilitate an extension of, I think, another three or four days.

"Hamas decided that it had enough of the pause in the fighting, and it resumed hostilities by firing rockets at our cities, and by not releasing all the women and children. There are still 20 women and two children. it has been holding hostage as part of those 129 it refuses to release."

Mr Levy also did not confirm whether comments made by the Israeli ambassador to the UK that there could be no two-state solution were official government policy.

Protesters in Tel Aviv after the killings
Protesters in Tel Aviv after the killings. Picture: Getty

The IDF gave the details on Saturday of how its soldiers shot Mr Talalka, Mr Haim and Mr Shamriz.

They were killed when the Israeli army encountered them in northern Gaza's Shejaiya region, where Hamas fighters are often in plain clothes.

The hostages approached the soldiers naked from the waist up while holding a white flag.

A soldier felt threatened and opened fire on them, declaring them to be terrorists. Two were killed immediately, while a third was seriously wounded.

He crawled away and called out for help in Hebrew, at which point soldiers opened fire again, despite the battalion commander telling them to stop shooting.

A spokesperson for the IDF said that the deaths were "tragic" and that lessons had been learned.

He added: "I'll say very, very clear. This was against our rules of engagement. I repeat, it was against our rules of engagement."

The father of Israeli hostage Noa Argamani as protests broke out after the IDF killed three hostages
The father of Israeli hostage Noa Argamani as protests broke out after the IDF killed three hostages. Picture: Getty

The three men had either escaped their Hamas captors or been abandoned.

Protests erupted in Tel Aviv in the aftermath of their deaths, as people called for a deal to be done to release the remaining hostages, of whom there are thought to be about 130.

Shouts could be heard of "deal, now!" as well as calls for the release of all of the hostages.

Protesters also spilled red paint on the streets to symbolise blood, and held up banners criticising the government.

Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy speaks to Sangita Myska

Rear Admiral Daniel Hagar, a spokesperson for the IDF, said on Friday that the killings were a "tragic incident" for which the IDF bears responsibility,” Hagari said.

"During searches and checks in the area in which the incident occurred, a suspicion arose over the identities of the deceased," he continued.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the three men's deaths an "unbearable tragedy".

He pledged to continue "with a supreme effort to return all the hostages home safely".