The deaths of three hostages whom Israel said its troops had mistakenly shot and killed in Gaza were reverberating in Israel early Saturday as political leaders mourned them and protesters urged their government to prioritize the remaining hostages’ safe return over the country’s war goals.
The Israeli military announced the accidental killings on Friday, hours after saying it had recovered the bodies of three other Israeli hostages in Gaza. The deaths underscore the continuing risks for the more than 100 people who Israel says remain in captivity after being kidnapped during the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7.
Israeli officials, including Yoav Gallant, the defense minister, have insisted that the current high-intensity bombardment and ground assault in Gaza are the best way to force the hostages’ release, even as the United States, the country’s closest ally, has urged that it move to a more targeted phase of the war.
But the admission that Israeli soldiers killed hostages in error is likely to bolster critics within Israel who say the government isn’t doing enough to bring the captives home.
“This is a sad and painful incident for all of us,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the chief spokesman for the Israeli military, said on Friday. He vowed “full transparency” as the military investigates how the tragedy unfolded, and said the Israel Defense Forces bore “responsibility for everything that happened.”
The military identified the three men killed on Friday as Yotam Haim and Alon Shamriz, both taken from Kibbutz Kfar Aza, and Samer Talalka, who was kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Am, all in southern Israel near the Gaza border.
In one sign of public frustration with the government, hundreds of protesters marched and chanted in Tel Aviv on Friday night and into Saturday morning, demanding a deal with Hamas for the immediate return of the remaining hostages. Families of the hostages have been staging protests to pressure the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to secure the release of the captives at “any price.”
The families of the hostages were scheduled to address the tragedy on Saturday in a gathering at what is now known as Hostages Plaza in Tel Aviv, according to a spokeswoman for the group Hostages and Missing Families Forum.
Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet, expressed his condolences in a statement on social media, telling the hostages’ families that “the whole nation of Israel is crying with you.” Yair Lapid, Israel’s opposition leader, who has been fiercely critical of Mr. Netanyahu, said in a social media post that his heart went out to the families.