Family of soldier killed by friendly fire says not angry at comrade who shot him

Close friend of Staff Sgt. Nathan Fitoussi’s father says family ‘feels sorry’ for soldier who opened fire after mistaking him for a threat

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

Staff Sgt. Nathan Fitoussi in an undated photograph published by the military on August 16, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
Staff Sgt. Nathan Fitoussi in an undated photograph published by the military on August 16, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

The parents of an Israeli soldier who was killed in a friendly fire incident in the West Bank on Monday night were not angry at the soldier who fatally shot their son, a family friend told reporters Tuesday.

Nathan Fitoussi, 20, was shot dead by a comrade in the Kfir Brigade late Monday, after he was apparently misidentified upon returning to a guard post along the West Bank border barrier near the Palestinian city of Tulkarem.

“The family has no anger toward the soldier who shot. Not only are they not angry with him, they even feel sorry for him and I have no doubt that they would want to meet him,” said Meir Fitoussi, a close friend of the deceased soldier’s father.

“The father is a dentist. They have three daughters… and Nathan was the only son. They left everything in France and came to Israel,” he said.

Fitoussi was to be buried at the Netanya military cemetery at 6:45 p.m. on Tuesday, the Israel Defense Forces said.

According to the IDF’s preliminary probe into the killing, the shooting soldier followed the military’s open-fire procedures. The procedure includes shouting at a suspect to halt, firing into the air, and only using deadly force if the soldier feels threatened.

Fitoussi told his comrades in a guard position near Tulkarem that he was going to pray and would return a short while later. But when he returned, his comrade “shot him after an arrest procedure, which included shooting into the air and at the legs,” military spokesperson Ran Kochav told Kan public radio on Tuesday morning.

There were several meters of distance between the pair during the late-night shooting, according to the initial probe. Fitoussi was shot twice, and it was unclear why he was misidentified as a threat.

Military chief Aviv Kohavi (2L) is seen at the site of a fatal friendly fire incident, near the West Bank city of Tulkarem, August 16, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

The initial probe was conducted by IDF chief Aviv Kohavi alongside Central Command chief Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs and other senior IDF officers.

Fuches appointed Col. Liron Biton, commander of the 55th Paratroopers Brigade, as the head of a “panel of experts” to further investigate the fatal incident. The team will present their findings to Kohavi.

“I send my deepest condolences to the family of the late Nathan Fitoussi. [Last night’s] incident is serious, difficult, and very unfortunate and we will investigate it thoroughly and professionally,” Kohavi said according to a statement. “Protecting our people is an integral part of our operational ability to protect the residents of Israel,” he added.

Head of the IDF’s Central Command, Maj. Gen Yehuda Fuchs (left) and Judea and Samaria Division commander Brig. Gen. Avi Blot, near the West Bank security barrier, August 16, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Separately, the Military Police was investigating the matter and would present their findings to the Military Prosecution for evaluation.

IDF spokesman Kochav said the shooting soldier was cooperating with the ongoing investigation. “We will take care of him and try to understand what went through his mind and why this mistake was made,” he said.

The Military Advocate General issued a statement on behalf of the soldier, saying he had “followed orders and instructions.”

“This is a heartbreaking tragic event, in which our client’s best friend lost his life. He wishes to send his sincere condolences to the family for their heavy loss,” the statement said.

“Our client participated all night in investigations of the unfortunate accident that happened during operational activity. Now the soldier is being asked to testify. All that can be said now while the incident is still under investigation, is that the soldier followed orders and instructions,” the advocate general added.

According to Army Radio, the IDF had assigned an officer to accompany the shooting soldier and “to try to help him cope with the incident.”

The IDF initially reported the incident as a shooting attack, and according to Palestinian media, troops began to search for suspected gunmen in the Palestinian city. But shortly thereafter, a military official said the incident was likely friendly fire.

Fitoussi was taken to a hospital and later died of his wounds.

Earlier this year, two IDF officers from a commando unit were killed in a friendly fire accident at a base in the Jordan Valley in the West Bank.

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