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Israel shocked by self-immolation of traumatised ex-soldier

Itzik Saidian had been recognised as partially disabled due to the Gaza war [Getty]

Date of publication: 14 April, 2021

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Israeli leaders have expressed shock and consternation over the self-immolation of a former soldier who was suffering as a result of the 2014 Gaza war.

Israel was shaken Tuesday after a 26-year-old former soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder since the 2014 Gaza war set himself on fire, suffering severe injuries. 

Itzik Saidian went to a support service for wounded soldiers near Tel Aviv on Monday, doused himself with a flammable liquid and lit it, "due to significant psychological distress", the army said.

He was rushed to the intensive care unit of Tel Hashomer Hospital near Tel Aviv and was in "critical condition" with "deep burns all over his body", the hospital said. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was "very shocked" and "determined to undertake a complete reform of the way we take care of our disabled and wounded veterans".

The young man had been recognised as partially disabled because he suffered from PTSD related to his service during the 2014 war between Israel and the armed Islamist movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip. 

Around 2,250 Palestinians were killed in the war, mostly civilians, and 74 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

Saidian's self-immolation came on the eve of Israel's Remembrance Day for fallen soldiers and attack victims. 

It sparked controversy over the support system for wounded or psychologically ill soldiers, which is often deemed inefficient and bureaucratic.

"He saw horrible things and nobody took care of him," his tearful brother Avi Saidian told journalists at the hospital.

Read more: How Israeli industrial zones exploit Palestinian land and labour

Defence Minister Benny Gantz announced a "thorough investigation to find the reasons for this tragic event". 

His ministry pledged to "substantially improve the treatment of post-traumatic soldiers".

Military service is mandatory in Israel for 18-year-olds. Women serve two years and men two years and six months.

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