An Israeli military soldier has been shot and killed in the northern sector of the occupied West Bank, with the army claiming he was a victim of “friendly fire.”
The Israeli military asserted in a statement that a soldier operating in the Seam Zone area – a swathe of land in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and situated west of the separation barrier – came under fire by another soldier for unclear reasons near the city of Tulkarm on Monday night.
The soldier, whose identity was not immediately available, was taken to Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba city and later pronounced dead.
The soldier’s family was notified later on. An investigation into the circumstances of the incident is ongoing.
The incident comes amid heightened public rage across the occupied territories over the latest Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip, which killed 49 people, including at least 17 children.
According to the preliminary probe cited by the Kan broadcaster, the soldier left a guard post near Tulkarm for a short while, and when he returned, his comrade stationed there opened fire at him.
The Israeli military initially reported the incident as a shooting attack, and, according to Palestinian media outlets, troops began to search for suspected gunmen in the West Bank city.
But shortly thereafter, a military official said the incident was likely friendly fire.
“As far as I understand, the soldier was hit by two bullets and one of them was fatal. At first, they thought it was fired from the Palestinian side, but later we ruled out the suspicion of an attack and the direction we are investigating is that there was a shooting between the soldiers,” an unnamed senior Israeli military official told the Hebrew-language Walla website.
The incident took place a day after at least nine people were injured, two of them seriously, in a shooting attack just outside the Old City of al-Quds.
Earlier this month, Israeli fighter jets conducted a wave of raids on Gaza, targeting the Palestinian Islamic Jihad resistance movement, after arresting one of its senior leaders, Bassam al-Saadi, in the West Bank city of Jenin.
Forty-nine Palestinians, including 17 children and two Islamic Jihad commanders, were killed in the Israeli bombardment. Hundreds of Palestinians were also wounded.
Back in January, two Israeli officers were killed in what the military called a “serious” friendly fire accident at a base in the Jordan Valley in the West Bank.
They were identified as 28-year-old Major Ofek Aharon and 26-year-old Major Itamar Elharar, and members of a commando unit.
Later this year, two Israeli border police officers were lightly wounded after a mistaken identification led to a friendly fire incident along the Egyptian border.