Israel says it mistakenly killed three Gaza hostages, US pushes for restraint

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Israel said its troops had killed three Gaza hostages after mistaking them for a threat, as the U.S. has called on Israel to scale down its military operations and focus specifically on targeting Hamas leaders.

The Israeli military said Yotam Haim, Alon Shamriz and Samer El-Talalqa were shot during operations in a neighbourhood of Gaza City.

The trio were among those kidnapped during Hamas’s raids into Israel on October 7, which killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and saw an estimated 240 hostages taken, according to Israeli authorities.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the death of the three hostages as an “unbearable tragedy”, while the White House called the incident a “tragic mistake”.

As news of the incident spread, hundreds of people gathered at Israel’s ministry of defence in the city of Tel Aviv in protest.

The demonstrators waved Israeli flags and brandished placards with the faces of some of the 129 people still held in Gaza.

“Every day, a hostage dies,” read one of the placards.

In retaliation for the worst attacks in its history, Israel launched an air and ground assault on Gaza, vowing to destroy Hamas, which rules the territory, and bring the hostages back.

Hamas says the war has killed at least 18,800 people, and reduced swathes of Gaza to rubble.

In Tel Aviv, relatives of hostages called on the government to reach an accord to allow more people to be freed.

Under pressure to do more to spare civilians, Israel approved a “temporary measure” allowing aid to be delivered directly to Gaza through its Kerem Shalom border crossing, the prime minister’s office said.

Israel had faced weeks of pressure from aid agencies and Western allies to reopen Kerem Shalom as Egypt’s Rafah crossing struggled to cope with the scale of need inside Gaza, where 1.9 million of the 2.4 million population have been displaced, according to U.N. figures.

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who was wrapping up a trip to Israel and the West Bank, called the decision a “significant step”.

“President (Joe) Biden raised this issue in recent phone calls with Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu, and it was an important topic of discussion during my visit to Israel over the past two days,” he said.

The U.S. hopes “this new opening will ease congestion and help facilitate the delivery of life-saving assistance”, Sullivan added.

A World Health Organization representative said the announcement was “very good news”.

Aid distribution had largely stopped in most of Gaza, except on a limited basis in the Rafah area, according to the U.N..

In Khan Yunis, satellite news channel Al Jazeera reported that one of its journalists had been killed and another wounded by “shrapnel from an Israeli missile attack”.

More than 60 journalists and media staff have died since the Israel-Hamas war began, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

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