Israeli troops mistakenly shot three hostages to death Friday in a battle-torn neighborhood of Gaza City, and an Israeli strike killed a Palestinian journalist in the south of the besieged territory, underscoring the ferocity of Israel’s ongoing onslaught.
The three hostages, who were members of a prominent Gaza family, were killed by Israeli fire as they were being held by Hamas militants in a house in the Shuja’iyya neighborhood, according to witnesses and relatives.
The hostages, identified as Ahmad, Mahmoud, and Mohammed al-Zaza, were among 13 members of the family who were abducted by Hamas on Thursday, after they were accused of collaborating with Israel.
The family denied the allegations, and said that they were targeted because of their political affiliation with Fatah, the rival faction of Hamas.
The family said that they had received a phone call from one of the hostages on Friday morning, who told them that they were being moved to another location, and that they should contact the Red Cross to arrange their release.
However, as they were being transported in a car, they came under fire from Israeli forces, who apparently mistook them for Hamas fighters.
The car was hit by several bullets, killing three of the hostages and injuring two others, who managed to escape and reach a nearby hospital.
The family said that they were devastated by the loss of their loved ones, and that they held both Israel and Hamas responsible for their deaths.
“They were innocent civilians who had nothing to do with the war or the resistance,” said Nasser al-Zaza, a cousin of the victims.
“They were killed by the bullets of the occupation and the injustice of the coup,” he added, referring to Israel and Hamas, respectively.
The family also appealed to the international community and human rights organizations to intervene and secure the release of the remaining hostages, who are still in Hamas’s custody.
Meanwhile, in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis, an Israeli airstrike killed a Palestinian journalist, who was covering the Israeli bombardment of the area.
The journalist, identified as Yasser Murtaja, was a co-founder of Ain Media, a local production company that provided footage and photos to international media outlets.
Murtaja, who was wearing a vest marked “PRESS”, was hit in the abdomen by a bullet fired from a drone, according to witnesses and colleagues.
He was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he succumbed to his wounds.
Murtaja, who was 31 years old and a father of a two-year-old son, had recently received a grant from the US Agency for International Development to document the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
He had also expressed his desire to travel abroad and see the world, as he had never been able to leave the blockaded enclave.
His death sparked an outpouring of grief and anger among his fellow journalists and friends, who condemned Israel’s attack as a deliberate and targeted killing of a civilian and a professional.
They also demanded an independent and transparent investigation into the incident, and called for the protection of journalists and media workers in Gaza.
Murtaja was the second journalist to be killed by Israeli fire since the start of the war on October 7, after Ahmed Abu Hussein, who worked for a Gaza radio station, was shot in the chest while covering a protest near the border fence.
According to the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, at least 12 journalists have been injured by Israeli fire in Gaza, and several media offices have been damaged or destroyed by Israeli airstrikes
The Israeli military, which has denied targeting journalists or civilians, said that it was looking into the reports of Murtaja’s death, and that it was operating in accordance with the rules of engagement and the laws of war.
The military also said that it was striking only military targets and infrastructure belonging to Hamas and other armed groups, and that it was taking all possible measures to avoid harming civilians.
However, the military also said that Hamas was using civilians as human shields and exploiting the media for propaganda purposes, and that it bore full responsibility for the consequences of its actions.
The military also said that it was responding to the attacks launched by Hamas and other groups from Gaza, which have targeted Israeli cities and towns, killing 1400 people and injuring more than 2000.
The military said that it had intercepted more than 90% of the rockets, and that it had inflicted severe damage on Hamas’s military capabilities, including its tunnels, rockets, and commanders.
The military said that it would continue its operation until it achieved its goals of restoring security and deterrence, and of eliminating the Hamas.
The war, which has entered its 60th day, has killed more than 18,000 Palestinians and displaced more than 1,800,000 in Gaza, according to the UN.
The war has also destroyed or damaged more than 1,500 buildings, including residential towers, schools, hospitals, and media offices, and has left Gaza with a severe shortage of water, electricity, and medical supplies.
The UN has warned that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is “dire” and that the risk of a “large-scale outbreak” of COVID-19 is high.
The UN has also said that the war may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, and that both sides must respect the principles of international law and human rights.
The UN has called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, and for the resumption of the peace talks based on the two-state solution, which envisions the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.
However, both Israel and Hamas have rejected the calls for a ceasefire, and have vowed to continue the fighting until they achieve their goals.