Elite soldier charged, officers face punishment over accidental shooting at base

Army indicts sergeant from Duvdevan unit for manslaughter after he shot dead Staff Sgt. Shahar Strug, 20, while allegedly playing with his pistol before a drill

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Staff Sgt. Shahar Strug. (Israel Defense Forces)
Staff Sgt. Shahar Strug. (Israel Defense Forces)

The army announced it would hold several officers accountable for regularly failing to uphold gun safety protocols Tuesday, as a sergeant was indicted for accidentally shooting dead a fellow member of the elite Duvdevan unit earlier this year.

The military said the entire chain of command up to the level of unit commander was facing punishment or reprimand over the death of Staff Sgt. Shahar Strug.

An internal army investigation found the commanders did not do enough to prevent the accident, in which the sergeant — who can only be identified by the first letter of his Hebrew name, “Nun” — discharged his weapon in the unit’s barracks ahead of a training session, killing Strug.

“The [investigative] commission found a flawed culture of illegal use of weapons in the team of fighters that the two belonged to, and it appears this was not an isolated incident,” the army said in a statement.

On Tuesday, “Nun” was indicted for manslaughter in the Central Command military court in Jaffa.

According to the charge sheet, he and Strug were playing with their army-issued Glock-19 pistols in their barracks on the Nachshon Base, in the central West Bank, ahead of an exercise, drawing their weapons from their holsters as they stood across from one another.

Strug, 20, from Givatayim, had blocked the barrel of his gun with a plastic safety plug. “Nun,” however, had not and had inserted a loaded magazine into the gun, according to the indictment.

“After the defendant drew his gun, he aimed the pistol at the center mass of the victim’s body, cocked his weapon and pressed the trigger. As a result of the defendant’s actions, a bullet was fired from the pistol, which struck the victim in the chest, killing him,” according to the charge sheet.

The Central Command’s internal investigative commission found that the unit had a history of gun safety violations.

One of the more public incidents took place in 2015, when two soldiers from the Duvdevan unit filmed themselves killing a camel in a drive-by shooting while they were on leave.

“The commission determined that there was insufficient oversight by commanders to prevent the this use of weapons in violation of orders and protocols, despite the awareness of this possibility, in light of three previous instances of bullets accidentally being fired in the unit,” the army said.

As such, a planned promotion for the commander of the unit, a lieutenant colonel, was called off, and he will be unable to go up in rank for at least two years.

The commander of the platoon, a major, received a “severe reprimand,” the army said. He too will be ineligible for promotion for at least two years.

The head of Strug’s team, a lieutenant, and the team’s sergeant were dismissed from their positions.

For security reasons, the officers and sergeant cannot be identified by name.

The army said the investigative commission put forth a number of proposed changes for the unit’s gun safety policies, which IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot approved.

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