5 soldiers killed, 7 hurt in ‘friendly fire’ incident in northern Gaza’s Jabaliya

Initial IDF probe finds tanks shelled building where paratroopers were gathered, after mistakenly identifying them as enemy forces; commandos deployed to Rafah

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Soldiers killed in northern Gaza on May 15, 2024. Top row, left to right: Sgt. Ilan Cohen, Sgt. Daniel Chemu, Staff Sgt. Betzalel David Shashuah; bottom row, left to right: Staff Sgt. Gilad Arye Boim, Cpt. Roy Beit Yaakov. (Israel Defense Forces)
Soldiers killed in northern Gaza on May 15, 2024. Top row, left to right: Sgt. Ilan Cohen, Sgt. Daniel Chemu, Staff Sgt. Betzalel David Shashuah; bottom row, left to right: Staff Sgt. Gilad Arye Boim, Cpt. Roy Beit Yaakov. (Israel Defense Forces)

Five Israeli soldiers were killed and another seven were wounded, including three seriously, in an incident of so-called friendly fire in northern Gaza’s Jabaliya on Wednesday evening, the military announced Thursday.

The slain troops were named as:

  • Cpt. Roy Beit Yaakov, 22, from Eli
  • Staff Sgt. Gilad Arye Boim, 22, from Karnei Shomron
  • Sgt. Daniel Chemu, 20, from Tiberias
  • Sgt. Ilan Cohen, 20, from Karmiel
  • Staff Sgt. Betzalel David Shashuah, 21, from Tel Aviv

The soldiers all served in the Paratroopers Brigade’s 202nd Battalion, and were part of an ultra-Orthodox company.

Their deaths brought the toll of slain troops in the Israel Defense Forces ground offensive against Hamas in Gaza and in operations on the border to 278. A civilian Defense Ministry contractor has also been killed in the Gaza Strip.

According to an initial IDF probe, a tank operating alongside the paratroopers in the Jabaliya camp fired two shells at a building where they were gathered at around 7 p.m.

The tank forces had arrived at the area in the morning, and several hours later, the paratroopers reached the area and established a post in the building. Later in the evening, another group of paratroopers reached the area and notified two of the tanks there that they were entering the building.

IDF troops are seen operating in northern Gaza’s Jabaliya, May 14, 2024 (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

The tank forces had later identified a gun barrel from one of the windows of the building and believed it was enemy forces, leading them to fire two shells.

The incident was being further probed.

Of the 278 Israeli soldiers killed in the Gaza Strip during Israel’s ground offensive against Hamas, which began in late October, at least 49 were killed by friendly fire and in other accidents, according to IDF data.

The IDF has assessed that myriad reasons have led to the deadly accidents, including communication issues between forces, and soldiers being exhausted and not paying attention to regulations.

Another 1,712 soldiers have been wounded in the ground operation — 338 seriously wounded, 566 moderately, and 808 lightly, according to the IDF data.

On Saturday, Israeli forces returned to Jabaliya after the IDF identified terror operatives regrouping there. The city, just north of Gaza City, was one of the first targets of the Israeli ground offensive into Gaza, which launched in late October as Jerusalem sought to uproot Hamas and return the hostages held in the Strip.

Fighting in the Jabaliya has been intense in recent days, with military officials reporting massive amounts of RPG fire against troops, mostly targeting tanks and armored vehicles. The IDF has said troops have killed more than 150 gunmen in the Jabaliya camp in amid the latest operation.

An Israeli airstrike hits a building in northern Gaza’s Jabaliya, May 14, 2024 (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

In one incident in Jabaliya on Wednesday, a soldier was wounded after an RPG hit a Namer armored personnel carrier, the IDF said.

Meanwhile, the IDF’s Commando Brigade was deployed to southern Gaza’s Rafah overnight, joining the 162nd Division which has been operating in the eastern part of the city since earlier this month, the military said Thursday.

The move came as the Israeli government was expected to approve widening the offensive there.

The IDF began sending troops into the southern Gaza border city of Rafah on May 7, in what it has described as a pinpoint operation, with soldiers currently holding a relatively small area southeast of the city.

Nearly 450,000 of the roughly one million Palestinians who had been sheltering in Rafah have evacuated in recent days as the IDF has escalated its operations in Gaza’s southernmost city.

Israeli troops operate in eastern Rafah in the Gaza Strip, in a handout photo published May 15, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli officials have said four of Hamas’s remaining six battalions are located in Rafah, along with the terror group’s leadership and possibly many of the hostages. But it has faced pressure from the US and much of the rest of the international community to not carry out a full-scale offensive in the city. Two more Hamas battalions remain in central Gaza, in the Nuseirat and Deir al-Balah camps.

The IDF has also wrapped up a weeklong operation in Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighborhood. The military reentered Zeitoun last Thursday for the third time in the ongoing war after identifying Hamas regrouping there.

Critics of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war strategy have blamed the army’s need to double back into northern Gaza on his administration’s inability to determine what will replace Hamas as the civilian authority in Gaza.

In a televised address Wednesday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told Netanyahu that he must make “tough decisions” to advance a non-Hamas governance of Gaza, whatever the personal or political cost, because the gains of the war are being eroded and Israel’s long-term security is at stake.

Gallant warned in his address that he will not consent to Israeli civil or military governance of Gaza, and that governance by non-Hamas Palestinian entities, accompanied by international actors, is in Israel’s interest. Netanyahu, he said, must publicly rule out the notion of ongoing Israeli military or civil rule in the Strip.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant delivers a statement to the press at the Kirya base in Tel Aviv, May 15, 2024. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Gallant specified that failing to find a replacement for Hamas in the Gaza Strip would undermine Israel’s military achievements, as the terror group would be able to regroup and reassert control. “As long as Hamas retains control over civilian life in Gaza, it may rebuild and strengthen, thus requiring the IDF to return and fight in areas where it has already operated,” he said.

Israel invaded Gaza following the October 7 massacre, during which thousands of Hamas-led terrorists stormed into southern Israel communities, killing some 1,200 people and taking 252 hostage to Gaza. Israel has vowed to eliminate Hamas to ensure it no longer poses a threat, but is also involved in indirect talks with the group aimed at an extended truce and exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 35,000 people in the Strip have been killed in the fighting so far, a figure that cannot be independently verified and includes some 15,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

Most Popular
read more: