Thursday, May 23, 2024

The Israeli soldiers in Gaza shot and killed three unarmed men who were later found out to be Israeli hostages. This could provide renewed energy to advocates pushing for a new cease-fire to facilitate the release of more hostages.

Critics of Israel’s conduct in the Gaza conflict are using the incident as evidence of its military not living up to its promises to protect civilians. The three men shot were unarmed and waving a white flag.

The event has caused distress in Israel and increased urgency in discussions about the country’s approach to its goals in Gaza.

The Israeli government is committed to continuing its operations in Gaza until Hamas has been eliminated. Hamas had initiated an unexpected attack on southern Israel on October 7, which resulted in an estimated 1,200 Israeli casualties and 240 others taken to Gaza as captives.

A week of cease-fires in the previous month saw 105 Israeli hostages released in exchange for 240 Palestinians, before negotiations broke down and the war resumed on December 1.

Around 120 Israeli captives, including soldiers and civilians, are still being held in Gaza. Their relatives have been protesting and advocating for another cease-fire to permit their return home.

Ruby Chen, an Israeli American citizen, whose son Itay is believed to be held captive in Gaza, expressed support for releasing Palestinian prisoners charged with murdering Israelis if it meant the release of his son.

The families of the captives are caught in a dangerous situation, Mr. Chen stated in a statement provided by a hostage family advocacy group, stating: “We have no time to lose — should we wait for another 10 hostages in coffins?”

Palestinians and critics of Israel’s conduct in Gaza are referring to the killings of unarmed men as just one small example of the Israeli military’s lack of concern for civilians in Gaza.

“Under the laws of war, people are presumed to be civilians,” said Sari Bashi, the program director at Human Rights Watch. “There needs to be strong information to suggest they are not before you can kill them.”

That didn’t appear to be followed in this case, she said, given that the men were shirtless and waving a white flag.

“Nobody batted an eye before killing them,” she said, noting that the investigation came only after the soldiers believed the men could be Israelis.

“The Israeli military is right to investigate the apparently unlawful attacks on these three men,” Ms. Bashi said. “But it should investigate when Palestinian civilians are the victims too.”

Since Israel responded to the Hamas-led attack with a vast military campaign in Gaza, nearly 20,000 Palestinians have been killed, about 70 percent of whom were women and children, health authorities in Gaza say.

The Israeli military said that it went to great lengths to avoid harming Gaza’s civilians and accused Hamas of endangering them by embedding its fighters within the population. It also said the shooting of the three men on Friday violated the army’s rules of engagement.

Akram Attaallah, a columnist for Al-Ayyam, a Palestinian newspaper in the West Bank, said that he was not surprised Israeli forces had shot the three men and that Israel would not have had to disclose what happened to them had they been unarmed Palestinians.

“Israel kills even those who surrender and raise the white flag,” said Mr. Attaallah, who is from Gaza. “The narrative is a condemnation of the Israeli army.”

Aaron Boxerman contributed reporting.

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