An Israeli soldier, 21-year-old Sgt. Gabriel Cepic, was killed Monday by so-called friendly fire on the border with the Gaza Strip.

The incident occurred during the pursuit of one of three Palestinians who crossed the fence into Israel. The Palestinians were arrested and told their interrogators that they wanted to seek work in Israel. The army has set up a committee to investigate the matter.

The incident unfolded at around 6:30 P.M. Israeli troops along the fence identified three people crossing into the country between Re'im and Kissufim. Many troops were called into the area, including a tank crew stationed nearby.

In line with regulations for firing inside Israel, three of the four members of the tank crew dismounted and advanced on foot. A jeep with four Golani infantrymen also arrived in the area.

It is likely that the Golani soldiers did not know that the tank soldiers had dismounted and were moving forward on foot.

According to initial investigations of the incident last night, the Golani soldiers fired at the armored troops and killed one of them before it was clear that it was an incident of friendly fire. Cepic's family was informed, and there were no other injuries. None of the Palestinians were armed.

GOC Southern Command Yoav Gallant ordered that a committee headed by a colonel be set up to investigate the incident.

Initial assessments suggest that there were serious shortcomings in the coordination of forces as well as command and control in the area.

Dozens of friends and neighbors came to the home of the Cepic family yesterday in Zichron Yaakov when news arrived of the soldier's death.

In a statement the family released to the press, Cepic was described as a "wonderful boy, amazing, who loved the country, was a patriot in his soul, a happy person who loved to be with friends." Family members said they were in pain and stunned by the news.

Cepic is survived by his parents, his brother Adiel, 24, and his sister, Annabel, who is also in the army.

A childhood friend said that Cepic was due to complete his mandatory service in six months, and that the two had talked yesterday about traveling to Tiberias the next time Gabriel came home on leave.