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Times Of Israel
Times Of Israel
6 Jan 2024

NextImg:Families of 13 people killed in October 7 Kibbutz Be’eri firefight demand probe

The families of 13 Israeli civilians killed amid an intense firefight between Hamas and Israeli troops in Kibbutz Be’eri on October 7 are seeking a military investigation of the soldiers’ actions that day, due to the likelihood that at least some of the civilians were killed by army fire, including tank fire, at the house where they were being held hostage by terrorists.

In a letter dated January 4 and published in Hebrew media over the weekend, the families wrote that they were “demanding the IDF carry out an in-depth and transparent investigation of the decisions and the actions that led to this tragic outcome,” and said this should not wait until the end of the war.

Kibbutz Be’eri was the hardest-hit community in Hamas’s October 7 onslaught, during which thousands of terrorists stormed across the border and massacred close to 1,200 people in their homes and at a music festival, taking another approximately 240 hostage to Gaza.

During Hamas’s deadly rampage through Be’eri that Saturday, a group of dozens of terrorists gathered 15 Israeli civilians as hostages inside the home of kibbutz resident Pessi Cohen.

The terrorists used the hostages as a bargaining tool to demand safe passage to Gaza, intending to bring the hostages with them. They threatened to kill the hostages if the IDF opened fire. According to the two survivors from inside the house, the terrorists positioned the hostages between themselves and advancing IDF troops as a gun battle blazed.

One terrorist surrendered, using one of the survivors, Yasmin Porat, as a human shield as he exited the house, thus saving her.

The gunfire between the sides continued for several hours, until, near dusk, the terrorists launched a rocket-propelled grenade toward the troops, according to reports.

Brig. Gen. Barak Hiram, commander of the 99th Division who was at the scene, told the New York Times last month that once that happened, he said: “The negotiations are over,” and told a tank commander to “break in, even at the cost of civilian casualties.”

Clockwise from top right: Zizi Sitton, Tal Sitton, and sisters Hanna (left) Sitton and Pessi Cohen. (Facebook/Courtesy/LinkedIn)

The tank fired two light shells at the house, and only one person emerged alive from the carnage — Hadas Dagan. The remains of 13 hostages and dozens of terrorists were ultimately recovered and identified. Family members said that one of the hostages, Yitzhak Sitton, the brother-in-law of Pessi Cohen, had been shot and killed by Hamas before the IDF arrived, and Yitzhak’s son, Tal Sitton, had been shot and seriously wounded. It was not clear how many of the other hostages had been killed by Hamas or by IDF fire.

Those killed inside the house have been named as Pessi Cohen, Hanna Sitton, Yitzhak Sitton, Tal Sitton, Tal Katz, Ayala, Liel and Yannai Hetzroni, Hava Ben-Ami, Ze’ev and Zehava Hacker, Adi Dagan and Suhaib Abu Amer Razeem. Abu Amer Razeem had been captured at the Supernova music festival and brought by Hamas to Be’eri to use as a translator.

The letter to the IDF was signed by Hila Peled and Shai Cohen, the children of Pessi Cohen; Noa Sitton-Segal, the daughter of Hanna and Yitzhak Sitton and the sister of Tal Sitton; Hagay Hacker, the son of Zehava and Ze’ev Hacker; Noam Ben-Ami and Nurit Levi, the son and daughter-in-law of Hava Ben-Ami; Abed Amu Amer, the brother of Suhaib Abu Amer Razeem; Omri Shifroni, the niece of Ayala Hetzroni and cousin of Liel and Yannai; and Yasmin Porat, the survivor and the girlfriend of Tal Katz.

Ayala, Yannai and Liel Hetzroni (Courtesy)

The letter, addressed to IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and several other military officials, cited the comments made by Hiram as well as reports into the incident, noting that “according to the evidence, the tank shells were fatal and killed many hostages in addition to the terrorists.”

They continued: “It is important to the bereaved families and to the public to understand the circumstances in which these decisions were made and to ensure that public trust, the values of the IDF and the responsibility of command are maintained even in these difficult days.”

The families said that in light of the “seriousness of the incident, we do not think it is right to wait with the investigation until after the end of the war,” noting that it was unclear when the fighting would end and that it was better to conduct interviews when “the memory is still fresh” — and before the home at the center of the event is bulldozed.

They also requested that the outcome of any such investigation be submitted first to the families and then to the general public, “to provide closure and clarity to the involved families who lost their loved ones and to maintain the principles of transparency and accountability in the army.”

The IDF previously promised to investigate the incident fully. On Thursday, it was revealed that the military has appointed a team to generally probe the actions of the IDF on October 7 and the period leading up to the Hamas attack, though it is unclear to what extent the team will probe the incident in Be’eri.