The Israeli army has admitted IDF troops accidentally killed three hostages during combat in southern Gaza.
According to a statement released by spokesman Daniel Hagari this evening: "During combat in Shejaiya, the IDF mistakenly identified three Israeli hostages as a threat. As a result, the troops fired toward them and they were killed.
"During searches and checks in the area in which the incident occurred, a suspicion arose over the identities of the deceased.
"Their bodies were transferred to Israeli territory for examination, after which it was confirmed that they were three Israeli hostages."
The three hostages were named as Alon Shamriz, Yotam Haim from Kfar Aza and Samer Talalka from Nir Am.
Samer Talalka, was a resident of Rahat, a bedouin town.
The mayor of the town, Ata Abu Madighem, told Army Radio: “Such bitter news: Bedouins and Jews were taken hostage together, managed to flee together in an effort to continue their lives — and ended their lives together in this very tragic event.”
The IDF statement added: “The IDF expresses deep remorse over the tragic incident and sends the families its heartfelt condolences.
"Our national mission is to locate the missing and return all the hostages home."
It emphasised that the area is an "active combat zone" and fighting has been ongoing over the last few days.
"Immediate lessons from the event have been learned, which have been passed on to all IDF troops in the field,
It was not immediately clear whether the hostages had escaped Hamas and were approaching Israeli soldiers or were still being held by the terror grouo when they were killed.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement: “Together with the entire people of Israel, I bow my head in deep sorrow and mourn the fall of three of our dear sons who were taken hostage, among them Yotam Haim and Samar Talalka.”
“This is an unbearable tragedy. The entire State of Israel mourns this evening. My heart goes out to the grieving families in their difficult time.”
“I strengthen our brave warriors who are pursuing the sacred mission of returning our abducted, even at the cost of their own lives.”
“Even on this difficult evening, we will dress our wounds, learn the necessary lessons and continue with our supreme effort to return all our hostages home safely,”
Defence minister Yoav Gallant said: “
“During this difficult time, my thoughts and my heart are with the families of the three hostages who were mistakenly killed by IDF fire in Gaza.״
״This is a painful incident for every Israeli. We must remain resilient and continue operating – for the hostages, for our citizens and for our soldiers.”
“This evening I spoke with the IDF Chief of the General Staff about the details of this tragic incident in order to learn lessons immediately,”