'There are mistakes, it is war': Israeli commander indicates IDF were behind white flag shooting

The IDF has given the strongest indication yet that one of their soldiers was behind the shooting of an unarmed civilian in Khan Younis, ITV News Senior Correspondent John Irvine reports

A senior commander in the Israel Defence Force (IDF) has given the strongest indication yet that Israeli forces were responsible for killing a man who was part of a group waving a white flag in Gaza, in footage broadcast by ITV News.

The IDF initially dismissed the video, which was broadcast on January 23, claiming the footage "is clearly edited and we have no way to comment".

But in an interview with ABC News, Brig. General Dan Goldfuss, commander of the IDF 98th Division, revealed they are now investigating the incident but remained adamant his troops do not fire at civilians, adding: "There are mistakes, it is war".

The person who fires the fatal shot is not seen in the video, but before the gunfire, the camera pans around the scene which shows what appears to be an Israeli tank positioned nearby.

When questioned over the footage filmed by a cameraman, employed by ITV News to cover the war in Gaza, General Goldfuss said: "Yes, those are my troops and I'm investigating that incident.

"That is not the way we carry out our rules of engagement. No, we don't fire at people waving white flags. We don't fire at civilians."

Brig. General Dan Goldfuss, commander of the Israel Defence Forces' 98th Division, is questioned by an ABC journalist over the footage filmed by an ITV News cameraman

This video contains distressing images

When the ABC journalist responded "but, you do sometimes", Goldfuss replied: "We don't."

He continued: "There are mistakes, it is war. This is not a machine working, these are people."

The footage was broadcast on January 23 and has sparked outrage from members of the UK parliament and leading charities, including Amnesty International and the Norwegian Refugee Council, who have described it as "evidence of a war crime".

When questioned by ITV News last week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak did not condemn the shooting as a 'war crime' but said he is "concerned" about the loss of civilian life in the enclave.

Jan Egeland, the leader of the Norwegian Refugee Council told ITV News: "It's an absolutely shocking video... civilians are protected, precautions should be taken to shield them - it's not debatable the law is very clear.

Before the shots are fired, the camera pans around the scene which shows what appears to be an Israeli tank positioned nearby. Credit: ITV News

"If it was the Israel Defence Force [IDF] you could charge commanders here, it's utterly important there will be accountability."

Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories, described the incident as "a televised war crime".

She added: "What kind of justification can be found for the killing of someone waving a white flag? From that distance? What kind of danger were those people posing? They were just talking to some journalist."

The footage filmed by Mohammed Abu Safia, a cameraman working for ITV News, shows group of the men are seen tentatively walking down a road with their hands up and one is holding a white flag - an international symbol of surrender.

Watch the full video filmed by Mohammed Abu Safia, a cameraman working for ITV News, with reporting from ITV News Senior International Correspondent John Irvine

This video contains distressing images

One of the men - Ramzi Abu Sahloul - is interviewed and says he was attempting to reach his mother and brother to escort them out of harm’s way.

Once the interview is complete, the group of men continue on their way - when the cameraman turns to get one last picture of the group, a round of loud shots can be heard.

The five start to run, but Mr Abu Sahloul collapses on the ground. The group then drag his body back down the road, as blood soaks the white flag, that has been laid across his chest.

Later in the video, another round of gunshots can be heard and the group of civilians are seen hiding next to Mr Abu Sahloul's lifeless body.

Mr Abu Safia explained to ITV News it was the victims family who had urged him to release the footage of that day, as he described the moment Mr Abu Sahloul was killed "in front of his eyes".

Mohammed Abu Safia is the filmmaker and producer was working in Al-Mawasi when he saw a man holding a white flag get shot. Credit: ITV News

Military vehicles circled nearby as the cameraman interviewed the group, and Mr Abu Safia said he noticed a laser beam coming from the gun of a nearby sniper.

He said: "I heard a sniper’s gun fire. That was the only fire noise. I stopped recording, and I was wondering if I was in danger or if it was a warning firing. I realised then the man was shot."

Mr Abu Safia stopped recording for around five seconds after hearing the gunfire, but decided he needed to document what was happening, so began recording again.

"I approached slowly to see what happened to the man. I saw how the man was shot in his heart. His sons came to him to take him. They tried to carry him, we were fired at again," he said.

"If they wanted us to leave they should've aimed in the air to warn us and make us leave. They didn’t do that. The man was shot before my eyes. They tried to save him but couldn’t. It was a direct shot to his heart," he added.

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