An Israeli Jeep plows the road near a security fence along the border with Gaza
An Israeli Jeep plows the road near a security fence along the border with Gaza Photo by Eyal Warshavsky
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IDF Spokesperson's Office.
Captain Tal Nachman. Photo by IDF Spokesperson's Office.

An Israeli army officer was killed early on Tuesday by friendly fire near the security fence between Israel and northern Gaza.

Preliminary findings suggest that Captain Tal Nachman, 21, from Nes Tziona was shot and killed by another soldier in the area, the Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson's Unit said in a statement.

At the funeral, Nachman's father, Nesi, said during the eulogy that it was "a shame that this happened for nothing, because of a mistake that shouldn't have happened. Not during a war, not during a confrontation, just friendly fire. If they would have acted according to regulations or to discipline, it all would have been prevented."

The incident took place at around 2:00 A.M. near Kibbutz Be'eri, on the northern border of the Gaza Strip. Soldiers from a Combat Intelligence battalion was on a routine observation mission some 300 meters east of the security fence, inside Israeli territory. The intelligence officers were with an armored personnel carrier, next to a Givati Brigade patrol battalion which was with a heavy IDF Achzarit armored personnel carrier.

Routinely, the Givati Brigade security force goes out every once in a while on foot patrol around the two armored personnel carriers to make sure that everything is in order. At around 2:00 A.M., one of the Givati Brigade soldiers on the patrol saw what looked like the suspicious movement of a figure on the exterior bottom of the vehicle. In hindsight, it turned out that this was a soldier from the Combat  Intelligence force who had come down from the deck of the vehicle to retrieve equipment.

The Givati soldier told his commanders during preliminary questioning that he approached the suspicious figure using the standard procedure for "apprehending a suspect." When there was no response to his calls, he fired one or two shots. The Israeli army is checking whether he intended to shoot in the air, even though one of the shots hit the Combat Intelligence officer in the back. The soldier was sleeping at the same time on the upper area of the armored personnel carrier. He was critically wounded and succumbed to his wounds later in hospital.

Gaza Division will begin a preliminary investigation Tuesday into the incident. As far as is known, the soldier did not get instructions from his superiors to open fire. The possibility that he acted of his own accord is being investigated. The shots were fired from 10 to 12 meters away. The Givati Brigade force is relatively new in this region, and was stationed there two weeks ago. Nevertheless, the lookout and security task is seen as a routine job which is not particularly complicated.

Speaking on Army Radio on Tuesday morning, Nachman's father said that Tuesday was meant to be his son's last day on the job, and that he was meant to have become a training company commander. "His brother also served in Combat Intelligence, he influenced him to go there," he said. "He had just finished his final training for the job."

"My son was killed by fire of our own forces out of foolishness. A soldier from the Givati Brigade shot him by mistake - at least if  there was a war. We were so proud of him, but it looks like we didn't look after him enough. It was important for me that Tal was in a combat unit."

Such incidents are considered rare in the Israel Defense Forces.

In 2012, Corporal Dor Jan was killed when an IDF patrol jeep overturned in the Golan Heights. In 2011, a soldier, Sgt. Nadav Rotenberg, was killed, and four other soldiers were wounded when a mortar shell landed near the Gaza security fence. An investigation of the incident revealed that the soldiers were hit due to a software malfunction.