Thirteen years after he was killed in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, Staff Sgt. Ohad Klausner was posthumously recognized by the Israel Defense Forces for his “courage and resourcefulness” during a deadly battle.
The military on Tuesday said a recent review of the role Klausner’s unit, the Golani Brigade’s 51st Battalion, played in the bloody Battle of Bint Jbeil found that his actions warranted recognition in the form of a certificate of appreciation.
The commendation was presented to his parents, Yisrael and Orit Klausner, last week as part of an annual award ceremony in the IDF Northern Command by its commander Maj. Gen. Amir Baram.
“In the name of the Golani Brigade and the entire Northern Command, I salute Ohad for the courage of his heart, for his fight. And I salute Orit and Yisrael, his parents, who are with us here in his name and in his memory,” Baram said.
Klausner grew up in the Beit Horon settlement, outside Jerusalem, before the family moved to Eilat. He returned to the capital as a teenager, studying in the Mae Boyar boarding school there. After graduating in 2004, Klausner joined the Golani Brigade’s 51st Battalion. He served as a radioman for his company commander and as a sharpshooter in the battalion’s strike platoon.
On July 24, 2006, the 51st “First Breachers” Battalion began approaching the Hezbollah stronghold town of Bint Jbeil in southern Lebanon, approximately four kilometers (2.5 miles) from the Israeli border.
The plan was for the Golani Brigade to enter the town from the east and the Paratroopers Brigade from the west in a pincer movement in order to conquer the town and force the Hezbollah forces inside it to retreat to the north.
The first two days of the battle, in which the Golani Brigade operated on the eastern outskirts of the town, saw relative success. But this changed on July 26, 2006, shortly before dawn, when the troops were ordered to move into Bint Jbeil itself.
As they entered an olive grove outside the town, Klausner’s company was met with stiff resistance from a larger-than-expected contingent of Hezbollah terrorists armed with anti-tank missiles, machine guns and grenades, who fired at the Israeli soldiers from all directions.
Early in the fighting, Klausner’s company commander, Lt. Amichai Merhavia, was fatally wounded in a grenade attack. A short time later, another grenade was tossed over a wall toward a group of soldiers.
Maj. Roi Klein, the deputy commander of the 51st Battalion, shouted the “Shema Yisrael” blessing and sacrificed himself, jumping on the grenade to shield the servicemen from the blast. He too was fatally injured, and used his final moments to direct medics to help Merhavia instead of him, to no avail, and to hand over command to another officer. Klein was posthumously promoted in rank and awarded the Medal of Courage, the military’s second highest commendation.
According to soldiers who took part in the fighting, Klausner rescued a number of injured soldiers before he was killed as well.
“One of those injured said Ohad rescued him from danger, pulling him behind a nearby building, and in this way, apparently, save his life,” the army said in the account of Klausner’s death on its memorial website.
“A battalion medic said he saw Ohad bandaging an injured person during the battle. ‘I told him, that he should run into a house and save himself, but he refused and remained in the field,’ he said. ‘We worked together, I bandaged one injured person, and he bandaged another,'” according to the IDF.
During the battle, Ohad — may his memory be a blessing — showed courage and resourcefulness
Klausner was shot in the chest by a sniper and killed almost instantly at approximately 5:50 a.m., some 45 minutes after the day’s battle began.
“During the battle, Ohad — may his memory be a blessing — showed courage and resourcefulness. He took a significant part in the destruction of a cell of Hezbollah fighters and significantly contributed to changing the direction of the battle,” the army said in its statement Tuesday.
Intense fighting continued throughout the morning at extremely close range, which prevented the military from sending in air and artillery support, as these would have been as likely to hit Israeli troops as Hezbollah terrorists.
The deaths of Klein and Merhavia, and the wounding of other officers, caused a breakdown in the chain of command, further complicating the fighting for the soldiers.
Due to the threat posed by Hezbollah missiles, it took several hours before rescue helicopters could be brought into the area to evacuate the injured to Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center in northern Israel.
In total, eight IDF soldiers were killed in the fighting in Bint Jbeil on July 26, 2006. In addition to Klausner, Klein and Merhavia, Cpt. Alexander Schwartzman, Staff Sgt. Shimon Dahan, Staff Sgt. Idan Cohen, Sft. Shimon Adaga and Sgt. Asaf Namer fell in the battle.
According to IDF assessments, between 30 and 40 Hezbollah fighters were killed in the battle that day.
Israel was unable to conquer Bint Jbeil in this operation, and on July 29 the IDF pulled its infantry troops from the town. A follow-up mission launched on August 1 similarly failed. Hezbollah retained control of the stronghold throughout the war, which ended two weeks later.
Over 100 soldiers were killed during the war.