IDF troops mistakenly killed three hostages during Gaza battles this morning, spokesman says

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Hostages Yotam Haim (L) and Samar Talalka, who were killed mistakenly by IDF troops in Gaza on December 15, 2023. A third hostage killed in the same incident was not immediately named, at the request of the family. (Courtesy)
Hostages Yotam Haim (L) and Samar Talalka, who were killed mistakenly by IDF troops in Gaza on December 15, 2023. A third hostage killed in the same incident was not immediately named, at the request of the family. (Courtesy)

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari says during battles in northern Gaza’s Shejaiya this morning, Israeli troops mistakenly identified three Israeli hostages as a threat and opened fire at them, killing them.

Hagari says the IDF bears responsibility for the “tragic incident.”

“This is an area where the soldiers encountered many terrorists, including suicide bombers,” he adds.

Hagari names the hostages as Yotam Haim, who was abducted by Hamas from Kfar Aza, and Samar Talalka, who was abducted from Nir Am. The third hostage was not named following requests by their family.

Samar Fouad Talalka, 24, from the Bedouin town of Hura, taken captive by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023; he was shot dead in error by IDF forces in Shejaiya when trying to escape on December 15, 2023 (Courtesy)

Asked how the hostages were able to escape Hamas captivity, Hagari says the military believes that “the three fled or were abandoned by the terrorists who held them captive.”

In his statement, Hagari says that “after the shooting, during a scan and examination, an immediate suspicion arose regarding the identity of the dead, and their bodies were quickly transferred for examination in Israel, where the hostages were identified.”

Heavy metal drummer Yotam Haim was abducted from his home in Kibbutz Kfar Aza on October 7, 2023; the IDF Spokesman said he was killed in error by IDF forces in Shejaiya, when trying to escape, on December 15 (Courtesy)

“This is a sad and painful event for all of us, and the IDF bears responsibility for everything that happened,” he says.

Hagari says the IDF immediately began to investigate the incident. “This is a tragic event, which took place in a battle zone where the troops encountered many terrorists in recent days, and today, and fought hard battles,” he says.

“In some cases, suicide bombers were encountered, and also attacks in which terrorists tried to lure our forces and draw them into an ambush. Shortly after the tragic incident, another encounter with terrorists took place near the scene of the incident,” Hagari says.

He says the IDF is still working to “gather the facts and clarify the details of the incident,” but meanwhile new protocols for identifying hostages were transferred to the ground forces, “to do everything to prevent another tragic event like this.”

“The IDF expresses deep sorrow for the disaster and shares in the grief of the families. May their memory be blessed,” Hagari adds.

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