Rabbi Dan Mertzbach 311.
(photo credit: IDF Spokesman Unit)
An IDF soldier accidentally killed a rabbi from the Otniel settlement on
The army is investigating the shooting, which took place in the
early morning as Rabbi Dan Mertzbach, 55, and two women were driving from Otniel
toward nearby Hebron on Road 60, most likely to pray at the Cave of the
Patriarchs. Mertzbach served as a rabbi for several surrounding
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His funeral was held in Jerusalem on Friday. He is survived
by his wife and five children.
IDF sources said that an investigation was
immediately opened to determine what caused the soldier to open fire in what
appeared to be a violation of the rules of engagement. The Military Police are
also involved in a preliminary review of the case and has yet to decide if it
will launch a criminal investigation.
“This is a grave
incident. We are investigating to ensure that these kinds of things do
not happen in the future,” a senior army source said.
The car was first
spotted by soldiers near Beit Hagai, south of Hebron, around 5 a.m., driving
suspiciously, an IDF source said. Four settlers were shot and killed in the area
of Beit Hagai in 2010, prompting the army to be on high alert ever
After spotting the vehicle, the IDF position passed the
information to a command post which then dispatched a nearby force to intercept
The soldiers from the Lavi Battalion of the Kfir Brigade spotted
the car on Route 60 between Beit Hagai and Kiryat Arba. They did not have time
to deploy a checkpoint, and instead used flashlights to try to flag down the
The car continued to drive fast. One of the soldiers fired eight
bullets, hitting the driver and both passengers. The car swerved to the
other side of the road and stopped.
Soldiers ran toward the car, and one
of them was hit by a passing truck. He was lightly injured.
severely injured and eventually pronounced dead at the scene. One of the
female passengers was shot in the shoulder and one was shot in the
thigh. They were evacuated to hospital.
There was no indication
from the preliminary investigation that there had been any reason to believe the
car had anything to do with terrorism, except for the fact that the driver was
driving fast on a dark road very early in the morning.
procession for Mertzbach, attended by hundreds, set out from Otniel to the Mount
of Olives Cemetery in Jerusalem, where he was buried.
The Defense Ministry informed the National Insurance Institute on Friday that
Mertzbach would be recognized as the victim of a “terror event.”
classification will allow the NII to provide welfare benefits to Mertzbach’s
The Defense Ministry generally only classifies incidents as
terror events when terrorists have carried out an attack causing injury or
The soldier who shot at Mertzbach’s vehicle believed his life was
in danger, an initial IDF investigation found.