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Elite unit’s ex-commander to be dismissed for lying about sparking fire during drill

Lt. Col. Efraim Tehila caused blaze in Golan after setting off bomb against IDF protocol in July; was previously entangled in January fatal friendly fire incident in his Egoz unit

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

IDF chief Aviv Kohavi (center) speaks to then-commander of the 51st Golani Battalion, Lt. Col. Efraim Tehila, October 4, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces, file)
IDF chief Aviv Kohavi (center) speaks to then-commander of the 51st Golani Battalion, Lt. Col. Efraim Tehila, October 4, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces, file)

The former head of the elite Egoz commando unit will be denied further promotions until the end of his military service, the Israel Defense Forces announced Sunday, after causing a fire during a military drill over the summer and later lying about it.

Lt. Col. Efraim Tehila, who was also entangled in but not punished for a case of friendly fire this January which left two Egoz officers dead, was accused by IDF chief Aviv Kohavi of a “serious moral failure” over the fire incident in July.

According to the IDF, Tehila activated an explosive device against protocol during a military exercise in the Golan Heights, causing a fire.

The fire was extinguished by troops, but an IDF investigation revealed that Tehila lied about the cause of the blaze to his military superiors and representatives from the Nature Reserve and Parks Authority.

When confronted, Tehila admitted to activating the explosive in a way that violated military protocol, took full responsibility for his actions, and expressed regret, the IDF said in a statement.

“The officer acted in complete opposition to training instructions, and his conduct afterward was not adequate with the values ​​of the IDF,” said the commander of the IDF’s Central Command, Yehuda Fuchs, who led the probe into Tehila.

Kohavi accepted Fuchs’s recommendation, saying that the officer committed a “serious moral failure, and therefore is not fit to hold command positions or advance in the service in the IDF.”

“Telling the truth is a central and fundamental principle in the IDF, and therefore not telling the truth is crossing a red line that cannot be accepted,” Kohavi said in remarks provided by the IDF.

Tehila remained as commander of Egoz following the friendly fire incident in January, until the end of his tenure in August, but was blocked from a planned promotion. He is now expected to continue serving in a non-command position for several years until he retires.

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