Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a briefing at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 28, 2023. (Abir Sultan/Pool/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

Netanyahu under fire as more hostage death details emerge

By ROY KATZ AND NICK WADHAMS |

(Tribune News Service) — Criticism of Benjamin Netanyahu for not acting with urgency to free hostages held by Hamas is rising as details emerge about the shooting deaths of three Israeli captives at the hands of the nation’s military during fighting in the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s prime minister plans to hold a press conference in Tel Aviv on Saturday night.

Protests started on Friday outside the nation’s military headquarters, and a major demonstration is planned for Tel Aviv on Saturday evening. The premier is taking heat for what’s been termed inaction on securing a new prisoner exchange deal, two weeks after a brief cease-fire ended.

The Israel Defense Forces revealed Saturday that the three hostages emerged shirtless from a building in the Shejaiya neighborhood of northern Gaza during fighting, holding a makeshift white flag to signify surrender, and that one shouted “help” in Hebrew. They were shot, contrary to the rules of engagement, as soldiers suspected a Hamas threat.

The men were identified as Yotam Haim, 28, Alon Shamriz, 26, and Samer Talalka, 25. All were abducted from kibbutzim in southern Israel near the Gaza border on Oct. 7. The Times of Israel reported that the three were trying to escape their captors when they were killed.

Friday’s deaths prompted new questions about the conduct of Israel’s military campaign after U.S. President Joe Biden this week called its bombing of Gaza “indiscriminate.”

The incident occurred while U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan was visiting the region. Israel’s two-month bombardment of Gaza was triggered by brutal attacks on southern Israel by Hamas fighters on Oct. 7. Some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed and about 240, including the three men shot on Friday, were taken hostage.

Israel and Hamas ended a weeklong cease-fire early in December that included daily exchanges of hostages taken by Hamas in the October attack for prisoners held by Israel.

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