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February 7, 2022 5:56 pm

‘Mistake in Discretion’: IDF Dismisses Officers After Probe Into Two Friendly Fire Deaths

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Separate photographs of Maj. Itamar Elharar, 26, and Maj. Ofek Aharon, 28, commanders in the IDF’s special forces Egoz unit, killed by friendly fire. Photo: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit

The Israeli army has decided to punish IDF commanders and dismiss officers following the findings of a military investigation into a January friendly fire accident that left two soldiers dead and revealed organizational mishaps.

On the night of Jan. 12, Maj. Itamar Elharar, 26, and Maj. Ofek Aharon, 28, both commanders in the IDF’s special forces Egoz unit, were killed by IDF fire due to a “mistaken identification” at a base in the Jordan Valley. The investigation found that the officers involved in the incident went on a patrol without planning or coordination but with loaded guns.

“This is a very difficult and serious incident that could and should have been prevented. The incident was due to deficiencies in professionalism, failure to comply with orders, and first and foremost a serious mistake in discretion,” said IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi.

“Professionalism and strict adherence to orders are two sides of the same coin that enable compliance with the task and the maintenance of human life,” he said. “We must not compromise even slightly on the safety, health and lives of our soldiers.”

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The incident occurred as the two platoon commanders on the night of Jan. 12 went on patrol to search for night vision devices that had been stolen from their tents at the Nabi Musa base a night earlier. Separately, another team commander also went on patrol for the same reason. The two teams did not know of each other’s actions.

When the patrol with Aharon and Elharar identified a suspicious person, they flanked him. The officer acting alone heard noises, and when he turned around and saw the second team, suspecting them to be terrorists, he felt threatened — opening fire and killing them both.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Noam Tibon stated that the investigation also found organizational mishaps in the Egoz unit and a “culture of failing to report and investigate [incidents],” and that the officers involved went out on the patrol without planning, in violation of IDF protocols.

The Israeli army said that although the commander of the Egoz unit had offered his resignation following the incident, Kochavi refused to accept it. Kochavi instead demanded that he finish his tenure, and canceled his promotion to command over the Alexandroni Brigade for the next two years.

Additionally, the deputy battalion commander will be removed from his position and will not serve in a command position for the next two years. A lieutenant identified as N will be removed from his position and will never serve in a command role in a combat unit, while another fighter in the unit will be removed from his duties and not serve in combat positions, the army said.

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