IDF Chief of Staff backs commanders amid mounting anger

Responding to societal and political criticism of the military’s growing sense of anger over the death of Border Police officer St. Sgt. Barel Shmueli, IDF Chief of Staff, Lieutenant Colonel. Kohavi told the troops and commanders that they had his full support.

“A society that does not support its soldiers and commanders, even when they have made a mistake, will find that there is no one to fight for it. The will to bear the losses is a condition of national resilience, and resilience is a condition of the continuity of existence, ”he said on Saturday.

“The will to bear the losses is a condition of national resilience, and resilience is a condition of continued existence,” Kohavi continued, adding, “Commanders and soldiers – I fully support you. Continue to initiate and take your responsibilities, dare and assume the consequences.

In a letter shared by the military, Kohavi added that support for troops and officers will not be changed but increased.

“This is not just a question for the IDF, it is a question for the State of Israel and at the center is the question of which commanders it wants – those who dare and initiate or those who defend and hesitate. “

The chief of staff’s comments came after Shmueli’s mother Nitza told Channel 12 News that she did not believe in anyone regarding the investigation into her son’s death.

“I don’t believe in the military, 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 shooting and all the studies and preparations were for nothing.”

The officer’s family sharply criticized the IDF and the government for their handling of Gaza border security and their response to his injury and eventual death.

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

They received the results of the Major-General’s investigation. Eliezer Toledano, head of the IDF southern command.

Their lawyer, Ran Rochberger, said the family were “disappointed, hurt and frustrated with the preliminary investigation” and did not accept it.

They “will not accept the transfer of responsibility to a lower ranking officer,” he said.

“We are not looking for culprits, but we demand an investigation at all levels. It is clear that the failure here was multisystem … not just in the border police but in the IDF as a whole, ”he said, adding:“ We heard from friends of Barel that the instructions were vague at best. There was an instruction to contain the [riot] and avoid unnecessary damage [to Palestinians]. “

The IDF has released the results of a preliminary investigation into the death of border police officer St.-Sgt. Barel Shmueli on Friday, saying it was not the open fire regulations but rather

placement of troops.

The investigation, which was shared with Shmueli’s family, found that operational assessments and riot-related procedures “were carried out thoroughly and comprehensively.”

Preparations for the riots included reinforcing troops, including snipers like Shmueli.

But the investigation also found that “it would have been okay to deploy the troops and use them differently once the violent mob reached the defensive wall. At the same time, no divergence was noted from the rules of engagement, which had not been changed at any time before or during the riots.

“The chief of staff determined that the rules allowed for the completion of the operational mission and the elimination of any threat to life,” the IDF said. “It was also found that during this event, significant shots were fired in response to the riots.”

After Shmueli’s death on Monday, many people sharply criticized the government and the military, saying he had placed restrictions on troops along the border.

Kohavi, in a speech Thursday evening, responded to strong public criticism by saying that the military is completing a full investigation into the incident which “will leave nothing to chance.”

Responding to suggestions that IDF commanders order soldiers to hold fire when attacked by terrorists, Kohavi said that was simply not true.

“The soldiers and commanders are equipped with all the tools and open-pit shooting rules that are clear. Claims to the contrary are unfounded and are nothing more than a complete lie, ”he said.

“Any soldier who feels threatened and in danger, in time of war or peace, is authorized to, must and is obliged 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.

“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,” he said.

On Thursday evening, a 26-year-old Palestinian was killed and several others injured as thousands of Gazans clashed along the border fence with Israel.

The Hamas-led health ministry announced that Ahmed Mustafa Mahmoud Saleh from Jabalya refugee camp died after being shot in the stomach during the riots.

Fifteen other Palestinians, including five children, were injured in the riots, in which some 1,000 demonstrators threw explosive devices and burned tires. The troops retaliated with live fire and tear gas.

Tal Spungin contributed to this report.

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