Tuesday, March 5

Israel uncovers new evidence of Gaza hostage deaths: live updates

The Israeli military said it had learned that its forces had come close to finding three hostages before they were mistakenly killed by Israeli troops in Gaza last week, an episode that shook the country and increased pressure on the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to quickly reach an agreement to release the remaining Hamas prisoners.

This news is the latest since the fatal shooting of the three hostages, who were unarmed and carrying a makeshift white flag. The Israeli military was quick to release details of the shooting, which it said violated its rules of engagement.

At a press briefing Wednesday evening, Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military spokesman, said that five days before the deadly shooting of the hostages, Israeli forces were patrolling the area where they now know the hostages were detainees.

They engaged in a shootout with Palestinian militants and sent a fighting dog equipped with a Go-Pro camera into a building for reconnaissance. The army said Palestinian fighters shot the dog and Israeli soldiers gained the upper hand in the fight, killing the militants.

But it turns out, the army has since learned, that the dog’s Go-Pro continued to record, capturing the voices of the three young entertainers – Yotam Haim, Alon Shamriz and Samer Talalka – who had been kidnapped, alongside about 240 other people, during Hamas surprise attack on October 7. The footage was apparently not verified at that time, the Israeli military said, and it is unclear when the army recovered the camera.

After their captors were killed, the three hostages fled the building, Admiral Hagari said. Their exact whereabouts were unclear over the next five days, before they were finally spotted by Israeli troops near a building a kilometer away.

Israeli troops were patrolling this area of ​​Gaza City, in a neighborhood that had been the subject of deadly ambushes in recent days. The soldiers were on high alert for Hamas attempts to ambush Israeli forces, possibly in civilian clothes, the army said.

The three young hosts, shirtless and holding the makeshift white flag, came out of a nearby building, the Israeli military said, citing a preliminary investigation. One of the Israeli soldiers, mistaking them for a threat, opened fire, killing two of them and wounding the third, according to the army.

The Third Army fled into the building, from where a cry for help could be heard in Hebrew. The battalion commander ordered the forces to hold their fire. But the injured hostage later reappeared, after which he was fatally shot, the army said.

Admiral Hagari pledged that the Israeli military would continue to investigate the shooting, which the military chief of staff called a blatant violation of the open fire policy. He said the military was investigating why the Go-Pro footage was not immediately reviewed.

“We will present all the material to the families. We owe the families the truth and the investigation,” Admiral Hagari said. The army “will do everything to ensure that this does not happen again,” he added.

Iris Haim, Yotam’s mother, released a recorded message Wednesday in which she told soldiers involved in her son’s death that she blamed no one except Hamas.

“We want to see you with our own eyes and hug you,” Ms. Haim said, in an English translation published by the Israeli government press office. “None of us are judging you or angry with you,” she added.

After their deaths, many in Israel demanded that Mr. Netanyahu do more to secure the release of more than 100 hostages, mostly men, still held in Gaza.

This involves declaring a pause in fighting or a ceasefire, like the one that ended on December 1. During the break, Hamas freed more than 80 Israeli hostages and 24 foreign nationals, while Israel freed some 240 Palestinian prisoners and detainees.