IDF probe: Female soldier hid instead of fighting during deadly Egypt border incident
Comrades feared soldier from Karakal battalion
may have been kidnapped after she failed to show up for count in
gunbattle last Friday.
Gili Cohen and
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with soldiers from the mixed Karakal infantry in May 2012.
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A female combat
soldier from the Israel Defense Forces' Karakal battalion patrol force
that confronted a terror cell on the Israeli-Egyptian border Friday hid
behind a bush for nearly an hour and did not open fire on the
terrorists, the army’s ongoing investigation reportedly shows.
After the incident near Mount Harif, IDF soldiers had to search for
their comrade, and for a time feared she had been kidnapped.
Israel Radio reported this morning that at a debriefing within the
Saguy District Brigade, the soldier explained that she hadd been afraid
to shoot at the terrorists, saying: “I had no chance against them.”
Brigade commander Col. Guy Biton told her that she had not behaved as
expected of a combat soldier.
Further details from the incident show that at 12:15 on Friday, the
field forces reported that the Artillery Corps troops securing the
border fence construction had come under fire, and within minutes a
patrol force from the Karakal battalion arrived at the scene.
The force opened fire on the three terrorists and one of the female
fighters who serves as a marksman stormed forward to attack at closer
range. The IDF said the incident, during which Cpl. Netanel Yahalomi was
killed, ended within 15 minutes with the three terrorists dead.
The investigation showed that for several long minutes there was fear
that one of the female soldiers had been kidnapped, as she was not
present for the count of forces after the incident. When the soldier was
finally located, she was reprimanded by battalion officers. This
angered a number of the combat troops, who defended her as an excellent
soldier who needed support.
One military source confirmed the details of the report, but noted that
the operational investigation of the incident was not yet complete.
Another military source, however, said that the soldier had not been
required to attack, and that no searches had been conducted for her as
the media had reported.
The investigation also revealed that Yahalomi, the artillery man who
was killed, was not wearing a helmet during the incident. Military
regulations for that area do not require wearing a helmet at all times,
rather only during operational activities such as patrols or ambushes.
The investigation clarified that Yahalomi managed to fire at the
terrorists before he was killed.
“Given that the incident is still being investigated by the commanders,
we will not address partial reports from the incident that were
obtained somehow or other," the IDF Spokesman said in response. "These
parts do not reflect the incident in its entirety and do an injustice to
the soldiers involved. When the investigation is complete, proper
conclusions will be drawn.”
A jihadist group calling itself Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis took responsibility on Sunday for the attack.
In a statement, the group said the attack was in response to the video
"The Innocence of Muslims," which mocked the prophet Mohammed. This same
group claimed responsibility for the August 2011 attack at Ein Netafim
along the border, in which eight Israelis were killed.
Visiting the site of the gun battle on Sunday, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz praised the soldiers' response.
"We are fighters who are protecting our borders," said Gantz, who heard
a description of the brief clash from one of the women combat soldiers
in the Karakal battalion that was involved in it. "There are encounters
and everyone who chooses to be a combat soldier knows that this type of
thing can happen," Gantz said.
Since the Ein Netafim attack there have been at least eight violent
incidents along the Egyptian border. Officers in the Southern Command
say they cannot identify any common denominator among the attacks, but
that it's clear that the activity surrounding construction of the
security fence along the border, expected to be completed by the end of
the year, is a draw for armed men.
"The border with Sinai will continue to challenge us," Gantz said on
Sunday. "An enormous effort has been made over the past two years to
close off the border, and it will be closed off, but even once it's
closed, the threat will not stop."
Details of the investigation that emerged on Sunday indicated that the
armed cell from the Sinai had at first hidden in a crevice from which
IDF forces could not see them. From an analysis of the field conditions a
military source told Haaretz that the militants must have known that a
group of African migrants was in the area, about 150 meters from them.
Col. Biton, commander of the Saguy Brigade, who spoke to journalists on
Saturday, said "the [armed] cell was not connected to the infiltrators.
The terrorists operated totally apart from the infiltrators."