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Defense Minister Benny Gantz orders probe

PTSD-afflicted IDF veteran sets himself alight, suffers serious burns

A day before annual Memorial Day eve, Itzik Saidyan, 26, self-immolates at entrance to Defense Ministry office for rehabilitation of injured former soldiers

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

IDF veteran Itzik Saidyan, who set himself alight outside a Defense Ministry office on April 12, 2021. (screenshot: Channel 12)
IDF veteran Itzik Saidyan, who set himself alight outside a Defense Ministry office on April 12, 2021. (screenshot: Channel 12)

An IDF veteran diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder set himself on fire Monday outside a Defense Ministry office that handles the rehabilitation of injured soldiers in central Israel, the ministry said in a statement.

The man, 26, was seriously injured, sustaining burns all over his body. He was identified by Channel 12 as Itzik Saidyan, who had been interviewed by the television station two years prior as part of a story on soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The IDF Veteran’s Association said that the man was frustrated at his treatment by authorities. He was recognized by the Defense Ministry as having 25 percent disability from his post-traumatic stress disorder, but had requested 50 percent recognition. The ministry had refused, saying at least a portion of his illness was due to childhood trauma, not his military service.

According to the ministry, the man arrived at the Rehabilitation Department’s offices in Petah Tikva with a bottle full of a flammable liquid, doused himself with it, and then set himself on fire in the entryway.

“Defense Ministry security guards acted immediately, using fire extinguishers, in order to give him first aid; and, at the same time, called rescue services,” the ministry said.

Magen David Adom paramedics took the man to Sheba Medical Center for treatment in serious condition.

The ministry said it knew the identity of the man, who had been recognized as disabled due to his PTSD following his service in the military during the 2014 Gaza war, but was not releasing the information in order to preserve the man’s privacy.

The ministry added that it did not yet know why he lit himself on fire.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Defense Ministry Director-General Amir Eshel ordered an investigation of the incident in order to determine what prompted the man’s actions and what steps the ministry can take immediately, the ministry said.

The incident came a day before Israel begins marking its annual Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and terror victims, which starts on Tuesday night.

During the 2014 seven-week military campaign, known as Operation Protective Edge, the IDF battled against Palestinian militias led by the Hamas terror group. Saidyan, who served in the Golani Infantry Brigade, participated in the Battle of Shuja’iyya, in Gaza City, which saw some of the fiercest clashes in the conflict.

There have been several incidents of attempted and actual self-immolation in Israel over the past ten years.

In 2012, Akiva Mafa’i, a 50-year-old disabled veteran, died after setting himself on fire near a gas station in Yehud. His brother told the Ynet news site at the time that he had long been frustrated by state bureaucracy and had tried to commit suicide in the past.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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