Tragedy: Five Israeli soldiers killed, 8 injured by ‘friendly fire’ in Gaza

Tanks shot two shells at a building in Jabalya, not knowing it was an IDF field headquarters; eight others were wounded.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Five soldiers were killed by friendly fire in the northern Gaza Strip Wednesday night and eight others wounded when an armored unit shelled a building, not knowing that it had been taken for use as an IDF field headquarters.

The names of the paratroopers from the 202nd Battalion who died in the Jabalya refugee camp were released Thursday morning.

They are: Capt. Roy Beit Yaakov (22) from Eli; St. Sgt. Gilad Aryeh Boim (22) from Karnei Shomron; Sgt.  Daniel Chemu (20) from Tiberias; Sgt. Ilan Cohen (20) from Karmiel; and St. Sgt.  Bezalel David Shashuah (21) from Tel Aviv.

Of the eight transported to Israeli hospitals, three are seriously hurt and the others are in light-to-moderate condition.

The fighting has been fierce in recent days in Jabalya, with several soldiers being wounded by Hamas terrorists who had regrouped in the area that had been cleared by the IDF months ago.

The three-story building had been part of a corridor in Jabalya that the 202nd had captured at 9 AM. The battalion’s deputy commander moved his forward command post to its bottom floor around noon, but the two tanks attached to the force apparently did not know this.

According to the IDF’s initial investigation of the incident, in the evening, soldiers in one of the tanks saw the barrel of a weapon protruding from a window of the structure, which was only some ten meters from them.

Their ability to see out at the time was greatly constrained as the tanks had been ordered to batten down due to the anti-tank fire that was periodically being directed at them.

Thinking that terrorists had managed to return and were threatening them, the tanks fired two shells at the building, resulting in the terrible loss of life.

It is unclear as yet why the armored force did not know that their own comrades had begun using the building. The IDF is continuing its investigation.

Beit Yaakov was the son of the head of Eli, a reservist lieutenant colonel who has also fought in Gaza in the current war. The family described him as “a quiet and gentle warrior” who was “proud” of the mission to fight against Hamas.

Boim was the nephew of radio journalist Kalman Libeskind, who eulogized him as “a boy full of light and goodness,” while a fellow soldier called him a “golden guy” who “always took care of every soldier with all his heart.”

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Cohen was a lone soldier from Argentina who first came to Israel to study in yeshiva after high school before entering the army. Israel’s envoy in Buenos Aires informed his family of his death and his parents are flying in to bury him at the Mt. Herzl cemetery.