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The BBC's Hilary Andersson in Jerusalem
"The entire incident is deeply embarrassing for the army"
 real 28k

Thursday, 31 August, 2000, 21:41 GMT 22:41 UK
'Friendly fire' killed Israeli troops
Israeli soldiers at a funeral
Grief-stricken soldiers attended the funerals
The Israeli army has said that "friendly fire" killed three members of an elite undercover unit during a bungled raid against Hamas militants in the West Bank.

West Bank Map
The army's leading commander in the West Bank, Brigadier-General Shlomo Oren, has offered to resign over the incident, along with the commander of the elite unit involved in the raid.

The army said a preliminary inquiry had found that the three soldiers were hit by bullets fired by their comrades in the operation on Saturday in the village of Assira Al-Shamaliyeh.

The undercover Duvdevan unit was carrying out a night-time operation to capture Hamas military leader Mahmoud Abu Hanoud - wanted by Israel for a series of bombings.

Mr Hanoud escaped but later surrendered to Palestinian police.

Further inquiry

"Chief of staff General Shaul Mofaz has ordered a further inquiry next week to check all the facts linked to this operation before making them public," the army said.

The three dead Israeli soldiers were identified as:

  • Liron Sharvit, 20
  • Roy Even-Filsteiner, 21
  • Niv Yaacobi, 20

A fourth soldier, Abraham Joseph, was shot and wounded in the incident.

The BBC's Hilary Andersson in Jersualem says the whole incident has been deeply embarassing for the Israeli military.

It is not clear if the resignations of Brigadier-General Oren and the unit commander have been accepted.

Sniper fire

Israel's Haaretz newspaper said on Thursday that the three soldiers killed in the raid had either misunderstood or ignored orders not to take up position on the roof of a house next door to Mr Hanoud's hideout.

The mother of Hanoud
The mother of Mahmoud Abu Hanoud wails her protest
He spotted soldiers and fired at them, the daily said. Israeli snipers mistook the three Duvdevan soldiers on the roof for Palestinian militants and opened fire.

Mr Hanoud, who was shot in the shoulder, escaped but was arrested by Palestinian police while seeking treatment at a hospital in the nearby town of Nablus.

He is set to be tried by a Palestinian state security court.

One of his lawyers said on Thursday he had not been given a date for the trial.

"Abu Hanoud's case has been put under the spotlight and there is mass popular support," Hussam Arafat said. "He is viewed as a hero by the Palestinians."

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22 Aug 00 | Middle East
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