'He Didn't Have to Be There'

Soldier killed in friendly fire incident volunteered for front-line action, despite breaking leg in parachute jump.

Yehudit Rotenberg, whose son Sgt. Nadav Rotenberg, 20, was killed Friday by a stray Israel Defense Forces mortar shell in an incident near the Gaza border, said: "It cannot be that every mortar shell results in the death of our soldiers. My child is gone. What can I do? I only hope for there to be no more off-course mortar shells on soldiers."

The family had seen a report on a border incident in which four soldiers were injured. Yehudit and her husband Dror Rotenberg planned an evening out to celebrate their anniversary.

"We called Nadav, but his cell phone was off," Yehudit Rotenberg said. "Then there was a knock at the door, and we saw an army uniform collar through the window. I don't know how, but we suspected right away that it was friendly fire," she said.

Dozens of people came to comfort the family yesterday at their home in Ramot Hashavim.

Late Friday night, Col. Aharon Haliva, commander of the Paratroops Brigade, in which Nadav Rotenberg had served, came to explain the circumstances of Nadav's death.

"According to the explanation they gave us, they fired mortar shells and two went off course and fell near the forces ... the paramedic, who arrived within a few minutes, said there was nothing he could do. Nadav had taken it all," Yehudit Rotenberg said.

Rotenberg's friends said he was crazy about the army. Recently he had spent 10 weeks recovering at home after breaking a leg during parachute training. When he returned to duty, a civilian physician gave him a note specifying that he be restricted to office duties.

"I was upset with him for not showing his officers the letter. Nadav didn't have to be there. He wanted to fight, but he didn't want to die," Yehudit Rotenberg said.

In addition to his parents Nadav is survived by sister Na'ama, 25, and brothers Erez, 24, and Alon, 18.