People hold candles as they protest following an announcement by Israel's military that they had mistakenly killed three Israeli hostages being held in Gaza by Hamas, at a demonstration in Tel Aviv, Israel, December 15, 2023. Image Credit: Reuters

Gaza Strip: Israel mistakenly killed three hostages in fighting in the Gaza Strip, the country's defense forces said, prompting fresh questions about the conduct of its military campaign after President Joe Biden called Israeli bombing "indiscriminate."

During fighting in the Shejaiya neighbourhood, Israeli forces identified the three as a threat and fired at them, Israel Defense Forces spokesman Daniel Hagari said. Two of the hostages were identified as Yotam Haim and Samer Talalka, and the identity of the third wasn't released. The Times of Israel reported that the three were trying to escape their captors when they were killed.

The IDF will investigate the incident, which occurred on the same day that Al Jazeera said one of its cameramen in Gaza, Samer Abudaqa, was killed in an airstrike that also wounded one of his colleagues. Al Jazeera said rescuers weren't able to reach Abudaqa because of the Israeli bombardment.

Those deaths, which occurred with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan visiting the region, raised new questions about the Israeli campaign, which was prompted after Hamas fighters attacked southern Israel on Oct. 7, killed some 1,200 people and took about 240 hostages.

In a statement late Friday, Netanyahu expressed "deep sorrow" for the deaths, saying Israel would "learn the lessons and continue with a supreme effort to return all our abductees home safely."

US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby called the hostages' deaths "heartbreaking" but cautioned against making any broader judgments about Israel's ability to be more precise with its military campaign.

Israel's campaign has killed more than 18,700 Palestinians, according to Hamas-run health authorities it Gaza. On Thursday, President Joe Biden urged Israel to "be more careful" in its campaign in the Gaza Strip.

US officials are also talking to Israel about shifting the war from a devastating military assault to an operation that focuses on targeting leaders of Hamas, which is designated a terrorist group by the US and the European Union.

"I want them to be focused on how to save civilian lives, not stop going after Hamas," Biden told reporters Thursday. Earlier in the day, Sullivan had met with Netanyahu and pushed him to shift to what the US calls lower-intensity operations in the future.

Sullivan met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in a visit to the West Bank on Friday, and "expressed his deepest sympathy" for Palestinian lives lost since Oct. 7, the National Security Council said in a statement. The two talked about getting more humanitarian aid into Gaza and "stressed the importance of enhancing the protection of civilians," the statement said.

The president on Tuesday described Israel's bombing campaign as "indiscriminate" and said that while the US and European allies are still backing Israel, "they're starting to lose that support."