Golani commander returns to Gaza after being wounded
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 neighborhood.
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 lightly.
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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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 action.
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 conversation.
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 cut down."
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 just fight.
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 battle.
"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 said.
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 married.
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 friendly fire.
"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.
This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com /servlet/Satellite?cid=1231167284833&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull
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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 conclusions.
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 accurate head:
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 Barak???