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IDF boots special forces officer who broke quarantine, lied about it

Company commander was meant to self-isolate, but instead went to Yom Kippur prayer services with his unit; at least 27 soldiers became infected

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Illustrative. Soldiers from the elite Duvdevan Unit in a training exercise. (Israel Defense Forces)
Illustrative. Soldiers from the elite Duvdevan Unit in a training exercise. (Israel Defense Forces)

The commander of the elite Duvdevan Unit’s training company was dismissed from his position on Thursday after he violated a mandated quarantine, causing an outbreak of the coronavirus in his unit, and then lied about it, the military said.

Following the outbreak — in which more than two dozen soldiers in the Duvdevan Unit contracted the virus — the head of the Commando Brigade, Col. Kobi Heller, launched an investigation into the matter, which he presented to the head of the 98th Division this week.

“From the investigation, it was determined that the company commander did not speak truthfully during his epidemiological survey to the unit’s doctor and knowingly endangered the soldiers by staying with them when he was meant to be in quarantine,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

The company commander was required to go into quarantine last month after he came into contact with his deputy, who contracted the coronavirus. He was meant to self-isolate while the rest of the company was allowed to go into quarantine as a group, in a so-called capsule. Despite this, the officer — who had indeed become infected from his deputy — took part in prayer services with the rest of the unit on Yom Kippur.

Israeli soldiers wear face masks at a police roadblock in Tel Aviv during the nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, September 19, 2020 (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Apparently as a result of this exposure, at least 27 soldiers in the unit contracted the novel coronavirus.

In light of these findings, the division commander, Brig. Gen. Ofer Winter, decided to dismiss the officer from his position, the military said.

“The division commander noted that the company commander acted in a way that is unbecoming of an IDF commander, did not speak truthfully in his interrogation, did not maintain his self-isolation despite being required to do so and in this way knowingly put all of his soldiers at risk,” the IDF said.

“The division commander ordered that the findings of this event be shared with the other units in the division,” the military said.

The outbreak in the Duvdevan Unit, a counter-terrorism-focused detachment that often performs undercover operations, was one of several large flare-ups of the coronavirus in the military.

Over 100 soldiers on the basic training Base 80 were diagnosed with coronavirus in recent weeks; dozens of soldiers on the Nahal Brigade’s training base also contracted the virus; and at least 36 sailors on board the INS Lahav corvette were also confirmed as carriers.

In total, 1,095 soldiers and civilian employees of the IDF have tested positive for the virus, most with light symptoms, as of Thursday. Five service members were in moderate condition, and one had severe symptoms. In addition, 4,870 soldiers and civilian employees were in quarantine, the military said.

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