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The IDF said it mistakenly killed 3 Israeli hostages held by Hamas


The Israeli military says that its forces accidentally killed three Israeli hostages being held in Gaza. Those hostages were part of more than 100 still being held there after the deadly October 7 Hamas attacks, which killed around 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials, and that as the humanitarian situation in Gaza continues to get worse. NPR's Kat Lonsdorf joins us from Tel Aviv. Kat, thanks so much for being with us.


SIMON: What do we know about the hostages who were killed?

LONSDORF: Yeah. So this was a really big shock here. The Israeli military released a statement to the press at around 8 p.m. last night, saying that three Israeli hostages had been, quote, "mistakenly identified as a threat" and killed as a result. The statement said that the military began reviewing the incident immediately. You know, they said that it only happened a few hours before, so not a whole lot was known yet. But they released the names of the three hostages. They were three young men in their 20s. And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also released a statement calling it a, quote, "unbearable tragedy."

We got a few more details in a press briefing with an Israeli military official who said that a preliminary report had been done on this incident, concluding that the soldiers involved did not follow Israel's rules of engagement and that the hostages had been dressed as civilians - in civilian clothes - waving a white flag before they were shot. You know, Israel often says that Hamas wears civilian clothes to deceive the military.

SIMON: What's Israeli reaction been like?

LONSDORF: I mean, I think we're still waiting to see the bigger picture here a little bit. You know, it was the Sabbath here, meaning a lot of people weren't on their phones or maybe hadn't seen the news or weren't publicly reacting yet. But here in Tel Aviv last night, there was a kind of spontaneous late-night protest. And I went and watched as more and more people joined until there were almost a thousand people, I would say, you know, marching through the streets of Tel Aviv, yelling for others to wake up and come out and join them. And when I was there, I met 37-year-old Addam Yekutieli. He's an artist here. He told me he was full of grief and pain.

ADDAM YEKUTIELI: I think it even more reinforces kind of what many people around me, at least, have been calling for, which is a cease-fire. There's no military solution to this situation. Israel is bombing its way into a corner that it won't be able to get out of.

LONSDORF: I heard that from a few people I talked to there, that they wanted the fighting in Gaza to stop, that it had to end completely. And, you know, others didn't go quite that far - 30-year-old Ella Vinokur said that a new hostage exchange deal, like the one we saw a few weeks ago, had to be the top priority.

ELLA VINOKUR: We have to make a deal. Only diplomacy will work. And we need to start with saving lives first.

LONSDORF: You know, this feels like an important moment here. There's been a lot of public support here for what Israel is doing. But, you know, we'll see if this changes that.

SIMON: And what about the situation in Gaza today?

LONSDORF: Well, there's been a prolonged communications blackout in Gaza for almost two days now. So it's been really hard for us or aid groups to get any information from there. But from what we know, humanitarian conditions in Gaza are dire right now. Disease is spreading. People are living in overcrowded apartments with little access to medical aid or necessities. And, you know, the World Food Programme just put out a report today, or recently, saying that half of the households there are facing severe hunger. You know, the death toll in Gaza is around 19,000, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health.

And I should say also that rockets are launched toward Israel from both Gaza and Lebanon daily. Air raid sirens go off many times a day around the country here. You know, they're usually shot down by Israel's Iron Dome defense system. But this is all happening as U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan wrapped up a trip here saying that this war could go on for months.

SIMON: NPR's Kat Lonsdorf, thanks so much for being with us.

LONSDORF: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.

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