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August 16, 2022 2:05 pm

‘Severe Incident’: Initial Review of French-Israeli Soldier Fatally Killed by Friendly Fire Cites ‘Misidentification’

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

IDF efforts to buttress the West Bank security barrier. Photo: Security Fence and Border Administration, Israel’s Ministry of Defense

The Israeli army on Tuesday released findings of its initial investigation into Monday night’s friendly fire incident which killed IDF Staff Sergeant Natan Fitoussi near the West Bank security barrier.

According to the initial investigation, led by IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, the 20-year-old French-Israeli soldier left a guard post along the border close to the town of Tulkarm and as he returned another soldier identified him as a threat and opened fire.

The shooter saw a suspicious “figure in the dark and as he felt that his life was in danger he acted according to the procedure for apprehending suspects, shouting ‘stop, stop’, and firing shots in the air,” Israeli news portal Walla! reported citing sources close to the interrogation.

When the IDF soldier was asked during his interrogation why he opened fire, he responded that the suspect continued to approach him even after he fired shots in the air.

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The IDF said that immediately after the shooting, when the soldier realized the “misidentification,” he reported the incident to his commanders, who called for medical treatment to the scene. The medical team arrived within minutes on the ground and evacuated him to a hospital, where he succumbed to his wounds after many resuscitation efforts and was pronounced dead.

“I send my deepest condolences to the family of the late Natan Fitoussi,” Kochavi said. “[The] incident is severe, difficult and unfortunate, and we will review it in a thorough and professional manner. Protecting our people is an inseparable part of our operational abilities to defend the civilians of the State of Israel.”

“My heart goes out to his dear family,” said Defense Minister Benny Gantz. “The IDF is committed to investigate the incident and draw the lessons from it, so that such cases will not recur.”

Following the initial review of  the fatal incident, Col. Liron Biton, commander of the IDF’s 55th Paratroopers Brigade, was appointed to lead an in-depth investigation.

Separately, the Israeli Military Police opened an investigation into the circumstances of the incident, which will be presented for examination to the Military Advocate General, the IDF said.

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