A tank in Gaza
Cpl Yousef Moadi
Photo reproduction: Shai Vaknin
The IDF is looking into two incidents in which friendly fire claimed the lives of four soldiers in Gaza. Both incidents had similar characteristics. In both, tanks fired shells at buildings that were suspected of providing cover for terrorists, but in reality, IDF soldiers were located there at the time.
The first incident, in which three soldiers were killed, took place Monday night on the outskirts of the Jabaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. A tank fired a shell at a building containing Golani soldiers, after they had erroneously been identified as terrorists. In this incident, another 24 soldiers were wounded, one of them critically.
The casualties from this incident have been identified. They are: Major Dagan Wartman, 32, from Ma'aleh Mikhmash, a doctor by profession, who will be laid to rest at 3:30 pm at the military cemetery on Mount Herzl; St-Sgt Nitai Stern, 21, from Jerusalem will be laid to rest at 1:30 pm at the military cemetery on Mount Herzl; and Cpl Yousef Moadi, 19, from Haifa will be laid to rest at 3:00 pm at the Bircha cemetery.
The second incident took place early Tuesday in Gaza. One of the walls of the building in which an officer was hiding collapsed, apparently after an IDF shell hit it. The officer killed was identified as Captain Yonatan Netanel, 27, from Kedumim. The time and location of his funeral have yet to be determined. Netanel was the deputy company commander of the 202nd Paratroopers Brigade.
A central question raised in the investigation is that of authorization to open fire, and whether this was obtained according to the standard protocol as established by IDF regulations. IDF officers noted that though both incidents are difficult to accept, they occurred in the complex environment of the battle field in which many events take place simultaneously.
The IDF investigation is also examining whether the infantry soldiers took the proper measures to coordinate their entry into the building, as would befit such actions.
In both incidents, the tanks firing the shells were from the same brigade. However, it is important to note that this does not indicate a malfunction within the brigade, but rather testifies to the complexity of ground operations.