IDF Concludes Investigation into 3 Hostages’ Deaths: Preventable, but No Fault

Herzi Halevi Gaza Strip (IDF)

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) released the results of its investigation into the accidental shooting of three Israeli hostages on December 15 who had escaped their Hamas captors in northern Gaza and were trying to signal to Israeli soldiers for help.

As Breitbart News reported, the three were killed after they emerged on the battlefield. Later reports indicated that they had been shirtless and holding a white flag; soldiers had also seen sheets on a nearby building reading “SOS” and “Help – 3 hostages.” A K-9 unit dog that had been sent into a Hamas terrorists’ lair during a gunfight had also recorded the voices of the hostages calling for help, though the video recording obtained from the collar of the dog was only reviewed days after the hostages had been killed.

A sniper who fired the first shots, killing two of the three hostages, had not recognized the white flag, and Hamas terrorists had been trying to lure IDF soldiers into ambushes and booby-trapped buildings by placing false signs of hostages on the battlefield.

The IDF report (available here) adds several new details. It notes that after a commander told his soldiers to hold fire, and tried to identify the third hostage, other soldiers who were near a tank fired at the hostage because they did not hear the order over the sound of the engine. It also reports that a note calling for help was found near a Hamas tunnel, but was suspected of being fake.

Details include:

From the investigation and analysis of the findings and aerial footage of the area, it was revealed that the hostages were walking shirtless, and one of them was waving a white flag, standing at a point with limited visibility relative to the position of the soldier that fired the shot.

Prior to the event, on December 10, 2023, a note with the Hebrew writing “Help” was found at the exit of a terror tunnel in the Shejaiya area. Alongside the note, an ID of a Hamas operative was found. The note was examined, but no information emerged linking it to the presence of hostages in the area. The forces in the field considered it as an attempt by Hamas to deceive and lure the forces into an ambush.

On the morning of December 14, 2023, signs with the writing “SOS” and “Help, 3 hostages” were identified by drone footage on a building 200 meters from where the hostages were killed. Near the building, blue barrels commonly found in rigged areas, which the forces encountered in the Shejaiya area, were spotted, thus it was suspected as a trap.

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, commenting on the investigation, noted that soldiers had been prepared to rescue hostages, but had not been briefed on the possibility that hostages would try to approach them instead. He said that soldiers should have tried to confirm the identity of the hostages before shooting, but “[t]he pressurized conditions and operational environment made it difficult for the soldiers.”

Halevi added that “there was no malice in the event, and the soldiers carried out the right action to the best of their understanding of the event at that moment.” He said that the families of the hostages had also been briefed.

Read the full report here.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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