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14 Apr, 2021 13:16

‘Our blood is their salaries’: Disabled IDF veterans protest on Memorial Day after ex-soldier with PTSD set himself on fire

‘Our blood is their salaries’: Disabled IDF veterans protest on Memorial Day after ex-soldier with PTSD set himself on fire

A group of Israeli veterans held a protest outside a state-run rehabilitation clinic on Wednesday, demanding better treatment from the government. The rally took place days after a disgruntled veteran set himself on fire.

The demonstration took place on Memorial Day, dedicated to fallen Israeli soldiers. People, including disabled IDF veterans and those suffering from PTSD, gathered in front of the Defense Ministry’s rehabilitation clinic in Petah Tikva, where Itzik Saidian, a 26-year-old veteran, poured flammable liquid on himself and set himself on fire on Monday. The severely-burned veteran currently remains in critical condition.

Protesters held signs saying, “We are all Itzik Saidian,” and demanded the government “stop burying” former soldiers with PTSD. The head of the clinic met with the demonstrators, but they called for him to resign.

A disabled veteran named Yoav told Haaretz that he was there to protest against the bureaucracy, as well as the “fraud and crime” involved in how veterans’ affairs are run. “Our blood is their salaries,” he said.

According to Israeli media, Saidian was diagnosed with PTSD after the 2014 Gaza War, when he fought in a battle in which 13 IDF soldiers died. He is said to have grown angry after the Defense Ministry turned down multiple requests to increase his legally recognized disability level from 25% to 50%.

A friend of Saidian told Haaretz that the veteran felt humiliated when dealing with the Defense Ministry’s Rehabilitation Department.

Saidian shared his frustration with how the authorities had treated him in a 2019 interview with Israeli media, in which he said he was given just half an hour by a review panel to explain all of the difficulties he was facing due to his condition.

Following Saidian’s self-immolation, IDF Chief of General Staff Aviv Kochavi said on Tuesday that Israel must do everything to fight on behalf of its veterans. The Defense Ministry ordered an investigation into Saidian’s case.

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