Hundreds of people gathered in Netanya on Tuesday for the funeral of an Israeli soldier who was killed in a friendly fire incident in the West Bank the previous night.
Nathan Fitoussi, 20, was shot dead by a comrade in the Kfir Brigade late Monday after he was apparently misidentified upon returning to a guardpost from a prayer break. The incident occurred along the West Bank security barrier near the Palestinian city of Tulkarem.
Fitoussi was a new immigrant from France, and he was eulogized by his parents in French.
In her speech, Fitoussi’s sister Salome said her brother had been a very generous person who only gave to others, and that he was taken by the almighty because he was so good.
“It was Nathan that brought the family here to Israel. He is a hero. I learned a lot from him. He always had a smile on his face, always gave help to everyone,” Salome told mourners.
“We have to say thank you to God for taking him; he was a pure soul,” she said, then urging mourners to cry out “Thank God.”
Lt. Col. Ran Cohen, commander of Kfir’s Nahshon Battalion, called Fitoussi a “good and beloved friend” and praised the soldier as “the first to volunteer for any task.”
Addressing the Fitoussi family, Cohen said: “We will continue to walk with you forever. I promise that we will do everything in our ability to stand beside and strengthen you.”
Meir, a close friend of the Fitoussi family, told reporters earlier on Tuesday that the parents of the deceased soldier were not angry at the soldier who fatally shot their son.
“The family has no anger toward the soldier who fired. 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,” he said.
According to the IDF’s preliminary probe into the killing, the shooting soldier followed the military’s open-fire procedures. The procedure includes calling to 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.
The initial probe was conducted by IDF chief Aviv Kohavi alongside Central Command chief Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs and other senior IDF officers.
Fuchs 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.
Separately, the Military Police was investigating the matter and would present their findings to the Military Prosecution for evaluation.
The Military Advocate General issued a statement on behalf of the soldier, saying he had “followed orders and instructions,” and that the soldier was cooperating with the investigation.
“This is a heartbreaking tragic event, in which our client’s good friend lost his life. He wishes to send his sincere condolences to the family for their heavy loss,” the statement said.
According to Army Radio, the IDF has 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 Tulkarem. 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.
Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.