You’ve likely heard about the incident on Friday in which Israeli soldiers shot and killed three Israeli hostages who had either escaped from their captors or been abandoned by them during fighting in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City. The three were two Israeli Jews and one Israeli Bedouin, each of whom had been captured on October 7th. At the most basic level this is a version of “friendly fire” in which soldiers inadvertently kill fellow soldiers from their own army during wartime. In this case, it’s hostages not fellow soldiers. But the nature of the case is comparable.
The incident has produced a firestorm within Israel, both for the inherently tragic nature of the hostages’ deaths but also because of the particular details of how they died. Their deaths have added renewed intensity to arguments and protests about how the government is balancing the imperatives of destroying Hamas and bringing the country’s hostages home safely. Recent weeks have seen various protests in Israel, often led by or featuring families of hostages, demanding the government focus more on making a deal with Hamas to return all the hostages. The controversy has been fueled in part by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s almost total refusal to visit and meet with residents of communities attacked on October 7th or the families of the hostages.