(photo credit: )
During the last few hours of daylight on Sunday, the last day of fighting in Lebanon, a reserve paratroop battalion took up positions in Kantara.
The battalion's medical company set up its equipment on the ground floor of one of the houses. The company, commanded by the battalion's doctor, was comprised of about 20 soldiers, half of them medics and the other half the evacuation platoon, whose job it is to stretcher out the wounded and dead. Two other platoons from the support company occupied the second floor.
The battalion had seen its first action on Friday, when two of its soldiers were badly wounded. It was taken out for a short rest of 10 hours on Shabbat and went back in again that night. According to the procedure designed not to expose the troops to anti-tank missile fire, they went in on foot, the medics carrying 40-kilo loads on a 15-km. night march to the advanced position in Kantara.
They were not short of work. A short while after they had taken up their position, an anti-tank missile hit a D9 bulldozer operating near the building. Its heavy armor didn't stand up and its two-man team was immediately killed. Soldiers of the medical company rushed to the D9, despite the heavy fire, but were unable to extricate the bodies of St.-Sgt. Yevgeny Timofeyev, 20, and another soldier whose name hasn't yet been released.
"We had to restrain our doctor from rushing out to the D9," one of the medics said on Monday. "It's not his job to evacuate and we have to protect him. If something happens to him, we're lost."
The soldiers returned to the building, and at about 4:30 p.m., an explosion hit the building, and then two others. The team whose job it was to tend to the battalion's wounded suddenly had to treat itself.
"It was an awful feeling," he said. "We didn't know even where to shoot back. Suddenly the radio was full of shouting, 'Don't shoot, it's our own forces.'"
Two soldiers were killed and nine others wounded in the explosions. Warr. Ofc. Amitai Yaron, 44, of Zichron Ya'acov was the registry-medic of the company. A father of three, Yuri, as the other soldiers called him, was the oldest medic in the battalion. He was already exempt from reserve duty but had volunteered. St.-Sgt. Peter Ohatosky, 24, from the evacuation platoon, was also killed.
"One of our company commanders told us that it was one of our tanks which had fired at us," said the medic.
Reporters who had spoken with the division command had been told that it was probably a case of "friendly fire" from IDF tanks. But on Monday morning, Deputy Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky said that it had been a Hizbullah anti-tank missile, and the IDF Spokesman's Office told the press that battle debriefings had determined that it was not friendly fire.
The soldiers of the medical company were angry at what they saw as a whitewashing of the circumstances of their comrades' deaths.
Attempts by The Jerusalem Post to obtain a more comprehensive account of the battle from the IDF were unsuccessful.
IDF experts have said in the past that during wars, up to 20 percent of casualties are caused by friendly fire. In this war, there has been at least one confirmed death of a soldier from friendly fire and at least a dozen wounded. A number of other cases are still under investigation.
The deputy commander of the Herev Battalion told the Post on Monday that in at least two cases, his soldiers narrowly escaped mistaken fire from IDF tanks.
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