Israeli army chief tells soldiers 'not to shoot surrendering people' in Gaza after hostages killed

Israeli army chief tells soldiers 'not to shoot surrendering people' in Gaza after hostages killed
After mistakenly killing three hostages, Israeli army soldiers are being told not to target people surrendering in Gaza during fighting
3 min read
18 December, 2023
Israeli soldiers previously killed three Israeli hostages in the Shujaiya area of Gaza [Getty]

Israeli army chief Herzi Halevi on Sunday told soldiers not to fire at people surrendering in Gaza, days after three Israeli hostages were killed by the Israeli military.

The hostages were shot dead Friday by soldiers during combat in the Shujaiya area of Gaza City, even as they carried a white flag which displayed the words "SOS" and "Help, 3 hostages" in Hebrew. They also cried out for help in Hebrew.

The incident sent shockwaves throughout Israel and put further pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, already under immense scrutiny from the hostages' families.

Shujaiya saw ten Israeli soldiers, including a senior officer, killed in an ambush last week. It was the deadliest day for the Israeli army since its ground invasion of Gaza began.

Speaking to soldiers of the 99th Division, Halevi on Sunday said individuals raising a white flag in surrender must not be fired upon. He said even enemy fighters, if they surrender, must be detained.

"You see two people, they have their hands up and no shirts — take two seconds," Halevi told the soldiers, as quoted by the Times of Israel website.

"And I want to tell you something no less important…What if it is two Gazans with a white flag who come out to surrender? Do we shoot at them? Absolutely not. Absolutely not," he reportedly said.

He stressed that "enemy" fighters - in reference to those with Hamas and other Palestinian groups such as the Islamic Jihad – must not be shot but captured, as the military extracts a lot of intelligence from them.

"We have over a thousand [prisoners] already," he said.

The killing of the three hostages is indicative of Israel’s indiscriminate tactics during its brutal war on Gaza, where it has already killed over 19,400 people since October 7, most of them women and children.

There has been huge global backlash against Israel’s unprecedented bombardment of the Palestinian enclave, and many people have said that the total siege, a disproportionate use of violence, and colossal death toll amount to genocide.

Following news of Friday’s incident, protesters in Israel have demanded that the authorities offer a new plan for bringing home the remaining 129 hostages still held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas took more than 200 captives from southern Israel and killed about 1,200 others during a surprise ground, air, and sea incursion on October 7. The group said it came in response to decades of Israeli blockade and aggression, as well as Israeli stormings of Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Late November saw Hamas and Israel exchange hostages and prisoners as part of a Qatari, US, and Egyptian-mediated truce, which collapsed less than a week later as Israel resumed its attacks.

There are reportedly efforts to agree to a new truce to swap more prisoners.