Disabled IDF vet sets himself on fire just before Memorial Day

The disabled soldier, 26, is in serious condition with severe burns over his body. Netanyahu vows to carry out “comprehensive reform.”

By David Isaac, World Israel News

A young, disabled former IDF soldier set fire to himself outside a rehabilitation center in Petah Tikvah on Monday. He was rushed to Tel Hashomer Hospital in Ramat Gan.

Itzik Saidyan, 26, served in Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s 2014 war in the Gaza Strip, which was sparked by the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas terrorists.

A Defense Ministry spokesman said, “An IDF invalid arrived at the offices of the Ministry of Defense’s Rehabilitation Division in Petah Tikvah a short time ago and for some unknown reason set himself on fire.

“He is a 26-year-old IDF disabled person known to the Ministry of Defense for post-trauma from Operation Protective Edge. Preliminary investigation shows that the young man pulled out a bottle with flammable material he had brought with him.”

The Defense Ministry said the fire was put out with the help of extinguishers and first aid was administered.

“The circumstances of the incident are not clear at this stage. For reasons of individual privacy and medical confidentiality, we will not be able to provide identifying details about the disabled person,” the ministry spokesman said.

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Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Defense Ministry Director General Amir Eshel ordered an in-depth investigation to clarify the circumstances of the incident and to draw immediate lessons.

The IDF’s Rehabilitation Division has come under criticism in the past. After the incident, Edan Kleiman, chairman of the Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization (ZDVO), said:

“On the eve of Memorial Day and the 73rd Independence Day of the State of Israel, it is time to internalize and recognize that the Ministry of Defense’s Disability Rehabilitation Division is severely damaging the well-being, health and welfare of IDF disabled people.

“Every day that passes without a deep revision of the functioning of the Disability Rehabilitation Division is another day of harm, sometimes irreversible, to the heroes and heroines of Israel who gave the state the most dear of themselves – and are left to their own devices. We will work with all our might to change this sad reality,” Kleiman said.

“Unfortunately I know that he [Saidyan] is not the only one among our soldiers who is in such distress,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated at a Cabinet meeting Monday evening.

“Earlier this evening I spoke with handicapped IDF veterans organization chairman Idan Kleiman.,” Netanyahu said. “I expressed my profound shock over the incident and also said that I was committed to carrying out a comprehensive reform of the way we deal with handicapped IDF veterans and our wounded. I am certain that I reflect the view of very many among you.”

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Israel’s ‘Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of the Wars of Israel and Victims of Actions of Terrorism’ begins on Tuesday at sundown. The day is marked scrupulously in Israel where most families have either directly suffered casualties or know those who have in Israel’s many wars and operations.