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IDF censures officers implicated in accidental gunshot death of soldier

Staff Sgt. Yonatan Granot was shot in the head by a small round used in riot dispersal; violating protocol, shooter aimlessly fired gun toward a nearby hilltop, fatally hitting him

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

Staff Sgt. Yonatan Granot, killed by an apparent accidental discharge from another serviceman’s weapon in the Jordan Valley (Courtesy)
Staff Sgt. Yonatan Granot, killed by an apparent accidental discharge from another serviceman’s weapon in the Jordan Valley (Courtesy)

Several high-ranking officers received an official reprimand and lower-ranking ones were removed from their positions over the accidental gunfire death of a soldier earlier this year, the Israel Defense Forces said Wednesday.

On February 23, Staff Sgt. Yonatan Granot, 22, from the IDF’s Nahal Brigade was struck by a .22-caliber round from a Ruger rifle, a type of munition normally used for riot dispersal as it is considered less lethal than the larger caliber rounds typically used by the military.

An investigation determined that the bullet was fired by a platoon commander who aimlessly fired it toward a nearby hill where Granot was standing. The bullet struck him in the head, fatally injuring him, and he died three days later.

The shooter, whose name remains under gag order, is currently on trial on charges of manslaughter.

According to the indictment against the officer, a number of soldiers had trained with the rifles and after they finished, lay them down in a line close to the base’s guard post. Military prosecutors said the officer picked up one of the rifles and looked through its scope, without checking to see whether or not it was loaded.

“[The defendant] aimed the gun towards a hilltop within the camp… the defendant looked through the scope of the rifle and pulled the trigger,” prosecutors said.

Staff Sgt. Yonatan Granot, killed by an apparent accidental discharge from another serviceman’s weapon on a base in the Jordan Valley (Courtesy)

An internal military investigation, which was presented to IDF Chief Aviv Kohavi this week, found failures and mistakes throughout the chain of command, up to the battalion commander.

“First, the firing of the weapon by the platoon commander was not done in accordance with professional and safety guidelines. Second, the decision to leave the weapon at the company’s guards booth was mistaken, and the soldier failed to fulfill his mission by not preventing the [platoon commander] from picking up the weapon and firing it,” the military said.

In addition, the investigation found that soldiers and officers up the chain of command did not report the incident “in a sufficiently trustworthy and quick way,” the IDF said.

In light of the investigation’s findings, the head of the IDF’s 162nd Division, which commands the Nahal Brigade, called for the official censure of Granot’s battalion commander and deputy commander.

The commander of the Ground Forces’ counter-terrorism unit also received official censure and the head of the Ground Forces’ sniper department was removed from his position for failing in “their professional responsibility for training how to use the weapon,” the IDF said.

Granot’s company commander, who has since been released from regular service but continues to serve in the reserve, will retain his rank but has been permanently barred from leadership positions. He also received “a severe censure” from the commander of the 162nd Division, Brig. Gen. Nadav Lotan.

Granot’s platoon commander will also be permanently barred from leadership positions.

In addition, four combat soldiers who were inside the guard booth when the shot was fired and did not stop the platoon commander from pulling the trigger will be removed from their combat positions for failing to take actions that could have prevented Granot’s death and failing to report the incident “as is expected of them,” the military said.

In addition to the punishments, Kohavi ordered “all units of the IDF to study and learn from” the case. The army chief also called for the completion of a new training program regarding gun safety, the IDF said.

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