TEL AVIV (Jul. 9)
An Israeli undercover soldier disguised as an Arab was shot and killed Wednesday night by so-called friendly fire during an anti-terrorist operation in the West Bank village of Barta’a.
The dead soldier, who was identified as Sgt. Eli Isha, 19, of Beersheba, was buried in his hometown Thursday.
The incident was officially described by the Israel Defense Force as an ” operational accident, which occurred during the course of a complex operation to apprehend armed and wanted individuals, executed by a small force under cover of darkness.”
“During the operation, Sgt. Eli Isha was hit by our own forces and killed,” the army said.
A unit of the undercover ” Duvdevan” (Cherry) unit, disguised as Arabs, was taking part in an operation to seek out wanted armed terrorists, apparently pinpointed by agents of the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic secret service. When they entered the village, they split up into small groups.
During the operation, a member of one group shot and killed Isha, a member of another group, apparently mistaking him for an Arab.
A detailed investigation will be carried out to examine the circumstances of the accident.
The Duvdevan unit is one of two specially trained undercover anti-terrorist units operated by the IDF. It operates in the West Bank, with a companion unit working in the Gaza Strip.
It was established with volunteers shortly after the outbreak of the intifada, and operated under the strictest secrecy until several months ago, when the unit commander allowed Israel Television to film and air an eyewitness report on its activities. Senior IDF officials protested at the time at the lifting of secrecy and censorship, claiming that disclosure endangered the security of its members. But the IDF and defense establishment said the West Bank and Gaza Strip Palestinians already knew of the units’ operations, many from personal encounters with its disguised members.