IDF chief on hostage tragedy: 'IDF and I, as its commander, are responsible'

Halevi says accidental IDF shooting of hostages, who approached forces with a white flag after escaping captivity, violated rules of engagement; top general says incident followed days of combat against terrorists using civilian disguises and deceit

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzl Halevi took responsibility Saturday evening for the tragic incident in which IDF forces mistakenly killed three Israeli hostages, who had either escaped from their captors in Gaza or were abandoned by them.
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"The IDF and I, as its commander, are responsible for what happened, and we will do everything to prevent the recurrence of such cases in future combat," Halevi said.
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הרצי הלוי
הרצי הלוי
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzl Halevi
(Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
"The incident in which IDF soldiers accidentally killed Yotam Haim, Alon Shamriz and Samer Talalka, may their memory be a blessing, is a difficult and painful event," he continued.
"The three hostages, who survived seventy days of hell, approached IDF soldiers and were killed by our forces' fire. There is nothing IDF soldiers and commanders in the Gaza Strip want more than to rescue hostages alive. In this case, we failed to do so. We deeply feel the families' sorrow over the death of the hostages."
"I put myself in the shoes of a soldier in Shijaiyah, after days of intense fighting, encountering enemies at close range, facing terrorists dressed in civilian clothing using various deceptive tactics. The soldier must be alert and ready for any threat. A split-second decision could mean life or death.
“I believe the three hostages did everything to make us understand – they moved without shirts so we wouldn't suspect a bomb on their body and held a white cloth to signal us. The shooting of the hostages was in violation of our rules of engagement. It's forbidden to shoot at someone waving a white flag and seeking to surrender. However, this shooting occurred in the heat of battle and under extreme pressure.”
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יותם חיים,  אלון שמריז, סאמר טלאלקה
יותם חיים,  אלון שמריז, סאמר טלאלקה
Samer Talalka, Alon Shamriz and Yotam Haim
The top general said that a preliminary investigation into the incident was completed quickly, allowing for conclusions to be drawn during combat and conveyed to the fighting forces in the field.
"We informed the families about the difficult findings and released them transparently to the public," he said. "There may be additional cases where hostages escape or are abandoned during combat, and it is our duty and responsibility to rescue them alive."
Amid demands from the families of the hostages for the Cabinet to present a plan for their loved ones’ release and not to wait for a proposal from Hamas, Halevi said, "It is the fighting that brings opportunities for the return of the hostages.
“Our soldiers have been fighting for seventy days in Gaza and other fronts, bravely and resolutely to protect our home. In one moment, the complexity of our just war in Gaza is manifested. We went to fight to dismantle the enemy across the border, and to bring the kidnapped men and women home.
“Without determined fighting, we cannot bring back the hostages nor can we restore security to our communities. We must continue to fight vigorously, without losing sight of our objectives."
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