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Soldier killed by IDF fire had left post to pray; comrade followed open-fire policy

When Staff Sgt. Nathan Fitoussi, 20, returned, colleague misidentified him as a threat, probe finds, and shot him ‘after an arrest procedure’ that was apparently followed correctly

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

Head of the IDF's Central Command, Maj. Gen Yehuda Fuchs, tours the site where Staff Sgt. Nathan Fitoussi (insert) was killed in a friendly fire incident, near the West Bank city of Tulkarem, August 16, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
Head of the IDF's Central Command, Maj. Gen Yehuda Fuchs, tours the site where Staff Sgt. Nathan Fitoussi (insert) was killed in a friendly fire incident, near the West Bank city of Tulkarem, August 16, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

An Israeli soldier who killed his comrade in a friendly fire incident in the West Bank on Monday night apparently followed the military’s open-fire procedures, according to the Israel Defense Forces’ preliminary probe into the killing.

The procedure includes shouting at a suspect to halt, firing into the air, and only using deadly force if the soldier feels threatened.

The deceased soldier was named as 20-year-old Nathan Fitoussi from Netanya, an infantry soldier in the Kfir Brigade.

The initial probe found that Fitoussi told his comrades in a guard post near the Palestinian city of Tulkarem, close to the West Bank security barrier, 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.

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.

Touring the scene, the head of the IDF’s Central Command, Maj. Gen Yehuda Fuchs, said the incident was “difficult and unfortunate and should not have happened.”

“I send my deepest condolences to the bereaved family, and strengthen all the soldiers and commanders involved in the incident. As soon as the incident happened, we began to investigate it and we will continue to delve deeper and draw all the necessary conclusions from this difficult incident,” he said in a statement published by the IDF.

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

Prime Minister Yair Lapid said “the heart breaks” over Fitoussi’s death.

“On behalf of the Israeli government and citizens of Israel, sending warm condolences to his family and friends, and strengthen you in these difficult times,” Lapid said on Twitter.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he “wishes to express deep sorrow” following the deadly incident.

“To his dear family. We are all embracing them this morning. The IDF is committed to investigating and drawing conclusions, so that such cases do not recur,” Gantz said on Twitter.

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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