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IDF Chief of Staff throws support behind commanders amid growing anger

CM 04/09/2021

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Addressing the societal and political criticism of the army growing feeling of anger following the death of Border Police officer St.Sgt. Barel Shmueli, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Col. Kohavi told troops and commanders that they have his full backing.
“A society that does not back up its soldiers and commanders even when they made a mistake, will find that there is no one to fight for it. The willingness to bear losses is a condition for national resilience, and resilience is a condition for continued existence,” he said Saturday.
“The willingness to bear losses is a condition for national resilience, and resilience is a condition for continued existence,” Kohavi continued, adding “ Commanders and soldiers – I fully support you. Continue to initiate and take responsibility, dare and bear the consequences.”

In a letter shared by the military, Kohavi added that the support provided to troops and officers will not be changed but strengthened
“This is not just a matter for the IDF, it is a matter for the State of Israel and at its center is the question of which commanders it wants – those who dare and initiate or those who defend and hesitate.”
The comments by the chief of staff came after Shmueli’s mother Nitza told Channel 12 News that she didn’t believe in anyone regarding the investigation into her son’s death.
“I don’t believe in the army, I don’t believe in the government, I don’t believe in anyone,” Nitza Shmueli said on Friday. “I handed him over to the country, and there was no one to protect him… All the training and all the target practice and all the studies and preparations, it was for nothing.”
The officer’s family has sharply criticized the IDF and the government for their handling of security on the Gaza border and their response to his injury and eventual death.

 PALESTINIANS PROTEST near the border fence with Israel east of Gaza City. (credit: ATIA MOHAMMED/FLASH90) PALESTINIANS PROTEST near the border fence with Israel east of Gaza City. (credit: ATIA MOHAMMED/FLASH90)

They received the results of the investigation by Maj.-Gen. Eliezer Toledano, head of the IDF’s Southern Command.
Their lawyer, Ran Rochberger, said the family is “disappointed, hurt and frustrated by the preliminary investigation” and does not accept it.
They “will not accept the passing of responsibility to a low-ranking officer,” he said.
“We’re not looking for culprits, but we are demanding an investigation across all ranks. It’s clear that the failure here was multi-systemic… not just in the Border Police but in all of the IDF,” he said, adding, “We have learned from Barel’s friends that the instructions were vague at best. There was an instruction to contain the [riot] and avoid unnecessary harm [to Palestinians].”
The IDF released results of a preliminary investigation into the death of Border Police officer St.-Sgt. Barel Shmueli on Friday, stating it was not the open-fire regulations at fault but rather 
the placement of troops.
The investigation, which was shared with Shmueli’s family, found that the operational assessments and procedures that dealt with the riots “were carried out in a thorough and comprehensive manner.”
The preparations for the riots included the reinforcements of troops, including snipers like Shmueli.
But the investigation also found that “it would have been correct to deploy the troops and use them differently once the violent mob reached the defensive wall. At the same time, no discrepancy was found in relation to the rules of engagement, which had not been changed at any stage before or during” the riots.
“The chief of staff determined that the rules allowed for completion of the operational mission and the removal of any threat to life,” the IDF said. “It was also found that during this event significant gunfire was conducted in response to the riots.”
Following Shmueli’s death on Monday, many people have leveled harsh criticism of the government and the military, claiming it had imposed restrictions on troops along the border.
Kohavi in a speech Thursday evening responded to the harsh public criticism saying the military is completing a thorough investigation into the incident that “will leave no stone unturned.”
Responding to suggestions that IDF commanders order soldiers to hold their fire when under attack by terrorists, Kohavi said this is simply not true.
“The soldiers and commanders are equipped with all of the tools and with open-fire rules that are clear. Claims to the contrary are baseless and are nothing but a total lie,” he said.
“Any soldier that feels threatened and at risk, in war or peacetime, is allowed to, needs to, and is required to take action and remove the threat,” he said,” adding that “in many cases where violent incidents occurred along the border, many terrorists were neutralized by IDF soldiers.”Kohavi has instructed the military to continue the investigation and ordered that the lessons learned at this stage be applied to commanders and fighters in the field.
“The IDF is continuing its assessments of further violent riots and possible terrorist acts in the coming days while applying the lessons learned at this stage,” it said.
On Thursday night, a 26-year-old Palestinian man was killed, and several others injured as thousands of Gazans clashed along the border fence with Israel.
The Hamas-run Health Ministry announced that Ahmed Mustafa Mahmoud Saleh from the Jabalya refugee camp died after he was shot in the stomach during the riots.
Another 15 Palestinians, including five children, were injured during the riots, in which some 1,000 demonstrators hurled explosive devices and burned tires. Troops responded with live fire and tear gas.
Tal Spungin contributed to this report.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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