The three hostages who escaped Hamas only to be mistakenly killed by the Israel Defense Forces had used leftover food to write “SOS” messages on a white cloth, according to the military.
The Israeli men — Yotam Haim, 28, Samer Talalka, 22, and Alon Shamriz, 26 – used the food remnants to scrawl messages that read “SOS” and “Help, 3 hostages,” IDF spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said on X.
“Based on the investigation of the incident in the field, it appears that the three abductees were in the building where the signs were located, at least some of the time,” Hagari wrote Sunday.
“The IDF has informed the families of the additional findings found so far, and will continue to do so,” he said, adding that the investigation into the tragic incident continues.
The hostages left the signs on a building in Gaza City’s Shejaiya neighborhood where they had spent some time after escaping from their captors or being abandoned by the terrorists, according to the IDF.
The building was initially believed to be booby-trapped by Hamas after the terror group tried to lure soldiers into the area.
On Friday, the shirtless trio waving a white flag approached Israeli soldiers, one of whom perceived them as a threat and opened fire against army regulations.
Two of the hostages were immediately killed while the third returned to the building after being wounded, officials said.
When a cry for help was heard in Hebrew, the battalion commander ordered the soldiers to cease fire, but the wounded man also was shot and killed when he came out, a military official said.
Immediately after the incident, the IDF sent new protocols to the troops for the possibility of additional hostages managing to flee captivity.
On Sunday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi stressed the rules of engagement to troops of the 99th Division in the Gaza Strip, the Times of Israel reported.
He told them that people holding a white flag must not be fired upon, and that even when terrorists put their guns down and raise their hands, they must be taken prisoner and not shot.
“You see two people, they have their hands up and no shirts — take two seconds,” Halevi told the troops after saying the previous day that the hostages had been shot in breach of IDF protocols.
“And I want to tell you something no less important,” he said Sunday. “What if it is two Gazans with a white flag who come out to surrender? Do we shoot at them? Absolutely not. Absolutely not.
“Even those who fought and now put down their weapons and raise their hands — we capture them, we don’t shoot them. We extract a lot of intelligence from the prisoners we have. We have over 1,000 already,” Halevi said.
“We don’t shoot them, because the IDF doesn’t shoot a person who raises his hands. This is a strength, not a weakness,” he added, according to the news outlet.
The IDF chief stressed he was not addressing them “to say whether [the soldiers who mistakenly opened fire on the captives] were right or wrong, but so that we will be right going forward.”
Halevi, who stressed that the incident was “very difficult and painful,” said that “hopefully, we will have another opportunity where captives will come to us or we will reach a house, and do the right thing.”
He reminded the soldiers of the three aims of the IDF during its war on Hamas.
“Think about it: Why did we start the ground operation?” he said. “We set three goals: to dismantle Hamas, to restore security to the residents of the communities near the Gaza Strip… and the third task is the return of the hostages.”
Haim and Shamriz were abducted from Kibbutz Kfar Aza during Hamas’ terror attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7. Talalka was taken from Kibbutz Nir Am.
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