Jan. 7, 2009
Yaakov Katz , THE JERUSALEM POST
Moving through the tight alleyways of Saja'iya on Monday night, Golani
Brigade commander Col. Avi Peled and his men came under a rain of
Hamas mortar fire.
Together with Lt.-Col. Oren Cohen, commander of the brigade's 13th
"Gideon" Battalion, the force ducked into an empty home, apparently
still under construction.
The force had been inside the Strip since Saturday night, fighting
terrorists on the northeastern outskirts of Gaza City's Saja'iya
Peled and Cohen led several dozen soldiers into the house and climbed
to the third floor, where they began setting up the brigade's forward
tactical command post to prepare for the night ahead. Initial probes
indicate that the force failed to report that it had moved into the
structure, which was thought to be empty
A tank several hundred meters away noticed the suspicious movement in
the building and opened fire, hitting it with two shells. The soldiers
didn't have much of a chance.
Three men were killed: Cpl. Yousef Moadi, 19, who lived recently in
Haifa, but was originally from the Druse village of Yirka; Maj. Dagan
Wartman, 32, from Ma'aleh Michmash in the Binyamin region; and
St.-Sgt. Nitai Stern, 21, from Jerusalem. Peled and Cohen were
moderately wounded. Another 15 soldiers were also wounded, mostly
Initially thinking the blast was caused by a Hamas missile attack, the
IDF responded strongly.
Brig.-Gen. ( res.) Zvika Fogel, a former deputy OC Southern Command
and in charge of artillery fire for Operation Cast Lead, ordered
cannons to pound open fields near the building to deter Hamas
terrorists from reaching the area.
Little did Fogel know that he would soon be overseeing the evacuation
of his own son, among those wounded by the tank.
The evacuation took some time and Peled, despite his injury, refused
to leave the battlefield until all of his wounded comrades were
evacuated to hospitals in Israel.
"There was a difficult incident Monday night that can happen when
fighting in urban and denselypopulated areas," Peled recalled Tuesday
night in a briefing with reporters before heading back into the Strip.
"One of the tanks probably hit the home we were in. It was a building
where a few of us officers had gathered to plan the fighting for the
rest of the night."
Cohen, who lost a finger and fractured a shoulder, also appeared in
public on Tuesday, at the funeral of one of his soldiers.
"I don't plan to turn myself into a hero for what I did," the
scarfaced Peled said. " I am the commander of the brigade, and I did
what I am supposed to do. We continued to command our troops and to
fight. We have capabilities and we will keep on doing what we are
supposed to do."
Later in the night another officer was killed by friendly fire,
although this time near Atatra. The officer was identified as Capt.
Yehonatan Netanel, 27, from Kedumim in Samaria, a deputy company
commander with the Paratrooper Brigade's 202nd " Viper" Battalion.
There, too, a tank spotted suspicious movements in a building and
opened fire. Another two soldiers were wounded.
The IDF immediately began investigating the two incidents, which were
likely caused by lack of communication and a failure to notify other
forces in the area that the soldiers had moved into the homes.
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11:07 , 01.07.09
When caution isn't enough
Two friendly fire incidents in past 24 hours require urgent preventative action
In the past 24 hours we apparently saw two operational mishaps that
left our soldiers dead and wounded. One case, where three Golani
soldiers were killed and more than 20 were wounded, was positively
identified as a friendly fire incident resulting from a misfired tank
shell. In the second case, which left a paratroop officer dead, the
reasonable assumption is that this too was a friendly fire incident.
The circumstances of both incidents are still being investigated, yet
the very fact they occurred at the same combat zone and within a short
period of time require IDF commanders to adopt urgent preventative
The procedures of cooperation and coordination, as well as the safety
distances between the various forces and the troops who cover them
must be thoroughly reviewed – and if necessary, changed immediately.
This is not a simple matter, as we are dealing with combat within a
residential area, where enemy fighters and our own troops move around
and at times are located a few feet from each other. What makes it
even more difficult is the fact that our forces, as well as the enemy,
constantly change their positions. They appear and then disappear
within minutes, and it is difficult to tell apart a camouflaged
terrorist from one of our infantry soldiers, especially at night.
The fact that both mishaps were the result of tank fire apparently
points to the fact that tank commanders still do not possess adequate
observation means that would enable them to make proper identification
(at high resolution) of the targets they are firing at. This is
particularly true when visibility is poor and at night. This problem
is well-known, by the way. It caused civilian casualties in previous
combat situations, including in Gaza.
These facts are not new, and they highlight the extent to which the
issue of friendly fire is a complex and difficult to resolve matter.
Such tragic cases repeat in almost any war or operation carried out by
any army since World War I.
While the Americans use the somewhat odd term "friendly fire," in
Israel we use a rather bizarre term as well: "Two-way fire." The
tendency to shy away from calling this "problem child" by its name
attests to the difficult damage that such lethal combat mishaps cause
to the morale of forces, as well as civilians at the home front.
>> What is even more frustrating is that despite all the methods designed to prevent such cases, and despite all the technology and creativity invested on this front by modern armies, including the IDF, these mishaps keep on happening.
'How the heroes have fallen'
Jan. 7, 2009
Tovah Lazaroff , THE JERUSALEM POST
Reuven and Sarah Stern believed they had heard the voice of their
youngest son, Nitai, 21, for the last time on Saturday night when he
called to say he was heading into Gaza.
"I love you 'Mamush'" he told Sarah.
As she stood sobbing after Nitai's funeral at the capital's Mount
Herzl Military Cemetery on Tuesday afternoon, she relived that last
Her voice broke as she repeated her son's words. "I knew then there
would be bad news," she said. "He was my flower, and now he has been
Scores of friends hugged and kissed Sarah as she spoke with them about
Nitai, a native of Jerusalem's Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood, who was
killed by friendly fire in Gaza on Monday, along with Maj. Dagan
Wertman, 32, from Ma'aleh Michmash and Cpl. Yousef Moadi, 19, from
Yirka. They died when an IDF tank shell destroyed a house they were
using for cover.
In a separate friendly fire incident, Capt. Yonatan Netanel, 27, from
Kedumim was also killed by an errant tank shell.
Stern, Wertman and Netanel were buried on Mount Herzl in separate
ceremonies in which flag-draped caskets were marched in by their
comrades in arms. Family and friends spoke of heroes who had fought a
Yisrael, a friend of the Stern family, told the hundreds of mourners
who huddled in their coats against the cold, that Nitai's father,
Reuven, had also suffered when his son called to say he was going into
"You said that you feared that something would happen to him. You said
that your family had fought in all of Israel's wars and survived, and
that as a result, the statistics were not in your favor," Yisrael
According to Yisrael, after hearing that his son, the youngest of five
children, had been killed, Reuven told one of many who telephoned to
offer condolences, "What can we do? Many have paid this price. Now it
is our turn."
Nitai's older sister, Shira, said that a true eulogy would take the
family the rest of their lives.
She recalled how she had rocked Nitai to sleep on her stomach and
bathed him when he was a baby. As he grew older, she made him hot
chocolate, and took him to restaurants and the movies.
In the last few years they had both been busy, she with raising a
family and Nitai with the army. Even when they were together for
Shabbat, she could tell that he was always thinking of his comrades.
"You always knew what your path should be in life. Everything seemed
to come easily to to you. You gave all that you had to everything that
you did," Shira said. "You did that yesterday as well."
"When we last saw you, you seemed calm and you had an easy smile on
your face. Now you are gone from us. I feel like my words are nothing
compared to the great void that is about to overcome us," she said.
When her parents heard the news, they asked, "How can we go on?"
"We told them, 'We are all together and we love you very much. We are
with you and with Nitai," Shira said.
Nitai's friend Yaniv said he had never imagined he would be eulogizing
a friend who had been like a brother. In the past he had seen such
heartbreaking eulogies only on television.
Now that he himself was standing in the cemetery to bury a friend whom
he would never see or speak with again, he knew that "at this moment
your heart doesn't break, it shatters into small pieces," Yaniv said.
In a voice that boomed out across the cemetery, Nitai's father,
Reuven, said his son had worked hard to achieve his goals, even as
early as kindergarten.
"How the heroes have fallen!" Reuven declared.
Then he asked all the mourners to join him in a song of prayer. "This
hour should be the hour of mercy and goodwill before you."
Then Reuven added, "My dear son Nitai, rest in peace."
As Sarah and Reuven walked out of the cemetery, they paused to look at
their son's wreath-covered grave.
After a few moments her husband took her hand and told her it was time to leave.
As she stood she pointed to the mourners.
"See, they don't want to leave him, and neither do I."
As they left the cemetery, mourners entered for the funeral of Dagan,
who was also one of five children. Two of his three brothers are
currently in the army.
Dagan himself had taken a two-year break from the army, but returned
to participate in the Gaza operation.
Family and soldiers spoke of Dagan's commitment to his soldiers.
One officer said he was the kind of commander who worried that his
soldiers had enough money and who stayed up all night talking with
them. He would go around for days with red, swollen eyes from lack of
sleep, the officer said.
OC Chaplaincy Corps Brig.-Gen. Rabbi Avihai Ronsky said that on Monday
night had glanced over the shoulder of a soldier who was jotting down
the list of the wounded and the dead. When he saw Dagan's name he
became so upset he left the room.
Ronsky recalled how before the start of Operation Cast Lead he and
Dagan had spoken of the special spirit of bravery that lay within the
soldiers who were heading into Gaza.
Dagan's brother Shahar stood at the podium with a torn shirt, as is
traditional for mourners, and cried.
Dagan was modest and would not have wanted so much attention focused
on him, Shahar said.
"You taught us that we do not have to be together physically to feel
close to one another," Shahar said. His brother taught them that it
was not the details of life in and of themselves that were important,
but rather the way they expressed the inner soul of a person.
One of the central tenants of Dagan's life was study of the Torah, said Shahar.
Their father, Eli, recalled how he would sneak up on Dagan and cover
him with a blanket when he fell asleep still dressed.
"But I didn't take off your shoes, because you would not let me," Eli
said, his voice broken with tears.
Then he rallied and said, "We are asking that the message that goes
out of here is one of strength."
He was certain, he said, that his family would be able to move forward.
"But I want to say something else in your name. We will rebuild our
lives in a better way, if we listen to each other and we try to hear
what the other one is saying.
"Everyone who has the ability to unite should unite. When there is
more unity at every level, then we will see how our suffering will
lessen. I have no doubt of this.
"Dagan, we will continue to live with you. God, give us the power to
continue in Dagan's path."
As darkness fell, mourners gathered bid farewell to Netanel, who moved
to Kedumim from Jerusalem last year after he and his wife, Ziona, were
Three months ago, Ziona gave birth to their daughter Maayan.
A day before he died, Netanel sent his wife a text message from Gaza
saying "Everything is OK. There is no reason to worry."
Before the funeral, Yonatan's father, Amos, said that his son had
believed in the importance of the mission in Gaza.
When his company commander asked him if he was afraid, Netanel
answered: "We have been waiting for this."
Amos added, "We want to strengthen the hand of the army to continue
what it started. That is our request and it would also be Yoni's."
He said he understood it was possible that Yoni had been killed by
"It important to stress that a war is a war. Enemy fire and friendly
fire are part of the battle in which those who die do so to sanctify
God's name," Amos said.
At the funeral, Amos said he had gone to sleep the night before with a
heavy heart. He thought of the war's importance and of the sacrifices
it would likely demand.
The next morning Amos learned his son's life would be part of that price.
He thanked God for the privilege of having a son like Yoni. "I hope we
were worthy of that gift," he said.
Outside of the family home in Beersheba's Ramot neighborhood on
Tuesday night, two of St.-Sgt. Alexander Mashevizky's friends, Diana
and Gal, spoke to reporters.
They said that they had known him for several years and, fighting back
tears, Gal said he was the "salt of the Earth."
"He began pilot's course, but after he fell out he still wanted to
serve in a demanding combat position. Then he decided to go the
Yahalom unit, where he served," Gal said.
"He did a few training courses for different elite units and then
decided on Yahalom, a elite joint Golani-Engineering Corps unit.
"He loved what he was doing and he loved the country," Gal said.
Diana said Mashevizky liked to travel around Israel. He had been to
every nook and cranny of the North, which he especially loved.
He didn't say anything about being worried before he went into Gaza,
"but that was his way, he took everything on his own," Diana said.
"We're going to miss him very much," she said.
Mashevizky is survived by his parents, a brother and a sister. His
father is a professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
His brother is one year older than him and his sister is in the third grade.
The Mashevizkys made aliya the former Soviet Union.
Abe Selig contributed to this report.
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Depending on how professional the Army from 15% to 40% of casualties
are from friendly fire. A battle means that two Armies are in close
proximity to each other are working very, very hard to kill as many of
the enemy as they can. Once the bullets or shells start to fly,
anything can and does happen. So don't be too quick to draw
Barry Chamish wrote -( unrelated):
Who but me has been harping for years about Defence Minister Ehud
Barak's deliberate murder of religious Jews during the Lebanon War of
1982? Now, with wartime journalism letting the anger of Israelis
actually reveal itself, my oft-reviled thinking is rearing its
Tzvi ben Gedalyahu writes at Arutz Sheva
On the way up, Barak was in command of soldiers fighting in Lebanon a
quarter century ago. One group of soldiers he commanded was a unit of
religiously observant Jews. He had them advance into the pass near
Sultan Yukub, where Arab forces were waiting to ambush them, and where
23 of our kids died as a result. It is widely believed that he knew of
the presence of the Arab soldiers and was willing to see religious
Jews die - that way they could not father kids who would vote against
someone like Barak - or vote against Barak themselves.
And I'm sure they will ask these questions. I'm not sure whose the
bigger conspiracy theorist.... U or Barry. Although he's a one
conspiracy horse at this point. But one right store could mean more...
Keep thinking.... Better to be proven wrong than proven right.
GENERAL PATTON HAD ALMOST NO "FRIENDLY FIRE" PROBLEMS, BECAUSE HIS MEN
WERE DISCIPLINED AND WELL-TRAINED.
HAS THE IDF BECOME SLOPPY, OR IS SOMETHING ELSE AT WORK HERE?
כמקצוען ,אני מודיע שמידת הפגיעה הדו-צדדית היא בלתי סבירה ובודאי שלפגוע
במפקדה זה דבר בלתי סביר בעליל.אך לא להבין מזה שזה מעשה שנעשה במכוון
,אבל זה מראה על מיומנות לוחמתית נמוכה של תאום בין הכוחות על אף מיטב
האמצעים האלקטרטניים ,שיש בידי הכוחות.
שום מוכח שהצבא הירוק של צה'ל ובחורינו היקרים שבו על מפקדיו הבכירים
הסכלים ,זקוקים להרבה רחמי שמיים.
Any way. If it's happened almost be sure it was a mistake of human being.
But beside that, I am afraid that the spokesman of the IDF is not
accurate and some times, because of political reasons, he lies. Do not
forget that the IDF for example lie to soldiers in CHEVRON to avoid
refusing of participation in the destructions of Jews homes, Lie in
CHAVOTH GILAAD to religious parachutes in order to move them in
Saturday, and so on.
Take in account that it is possible that the numbers of Arab
casualties is exaggerated to blow Baraq chest and also that it was a
"success" of the Chamas and the IDF does not want it will published
because it will decrease the support of the reporters to Baraq..
Lots of interesting thoughts here. There seem to be two main opinions:
or a more sinister and deliberate attempt by "the general".
Please keep brainstorming. Maybe somebody has sources within the army,
who have more information. In view of the Sultan Yakub incident in
1982, I think it is imperative to find out the truth.
We have already determined that religious boys were overwhelmingly
affected, but on the other hand, we do know the intense motivation of
some religious settler kids, which is certainly lacking in the Ramat
Aviv Gimmel crowd of Sheinkin Street. So the question is, were they
there by choice, or were they picked by the leadership for dark
motives, such as the Sultan Yakub incident by the very same Ehud