IDF chief shown results of probe into October 7 fighting at Kibbutz Be’eri

Kibbutz residents to hear findings Thursday, including details of incident during which tank fired at house where Hamas terrorists held hostages

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

Houses destroyed during Hamas's brutal October 7 onslaught in Kibbutz Be'eri, seen on December 20, 2023. (AP/Ohad Zwigenberg)
Houses destroyed during Hamas's brutal October 7 onslaught in Kibbutz Be'eri, seen on December 20, 2023. (AP/Ohad Zwigenberg)

The results of an Israel Defense Forces probe into the onslaught and battle on October 7 in the border community of Kibbutz Be’eri, during which tanks shelled a house where Hamas was holding hostages, was presented to Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi on Monday.

The probe is due to be presented to residents of Be’eri on Thursday and later to the public, according to the IDF.

Be’eri was the hardest-hit community in Hamas’s October 7 onslaught, during which some 3,000 terrorists stormed across the border and massacred close to 1,200 people in their homes and at a music festival in southern Israel, taking another 251 hostage to Gaza.

At least 126 people were killed in the kibbutz, including 16 IDF soldiers, and a further 19 people were killed at an intersection just outside Be’eri.

The presentation of the highly detailed probe to Halevi on Monday lasted several hours, according to a military source. The fighting at Be’eri, one of the largest Gaza-border communities, included numerous incidents and many different Israeli units were involved.

The probe, carried out by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein, a former commander of the Gaza Division, covered all aspects of the fighting in the kibbutz that day, including the incident at Pessi Cohen’s house.

The remains of the home of Pessi Cohen, where Hamas held 14 Israelis hostage on October 7, 2023, in Kibbutz Be’eri, seen on November 19, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

As the IDF fought to regain control of the Gaza border communities, Brig. Gen. Barak Hiram, the commander of the IDF’s 99th Division, ordered a tank to fire on Cohen’s home, where terrorists were holding 14 hostages.

The tank fired two shells toward the house. Of the 14 people who had been held hostage, 13 were killed in the intense firefight between Israeli troops and the Hamas terrorists. It remains unclear how many of the 13 were harmed by the tank fire, although at least one of them, 68-year-old Adi Dagan, was said to have been killed by shrapnel.

The probe was expected to provide a high level of detail into the incident at Cohen’s house, according to information seen by The Times of Israel.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi (right) meets with the commander of the 99th Division, Brig. Gen. Barak Hiram, in the Gaza Strip in this photo published on January 19, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Before the war, Hiram was tapped to be the next commander of the Gaza Division, a move that appears to currently be on hold, subject to the results of the Be’eri investigation.

By Thursday, the probe will be reviewed and finalized by Halevi, and then presented to members of the kibbutz and families of those who were killed in Be’eri on October 7.

The IDF will conduct a presentation at one of the hotels at the Dead Sea, where displaced members of Be’eri have been staying since October 7. The army will also send individual representatives to the families of soldiers and local security officers killed in the kibbutz amid the onslaught.

Aerial view of Kibbutz Be’eri after the Hamas massacre, October 14, 2023. (Arik Marmor/ Flash90)

The military has called on the media and public to avoid spreading rumors about the content of the probe before its presentation to the families.

The IDF said it would also set up a website where the findings would be publicly available, and it would be updated over time with additional investigations into the battles on October 7.

There were some 40 battle locations, which are being investigated by more than 20 military commanders.

Each battle investigation or set of investigations is to be presented upon completion, and not all simultaneously, as some events on October 7 have proven to be more complex than others to review.

The IDF hopes to present all the battle investigations by the end of August.

Israeli soldiers survey the destruction caused by Hamas terrorists in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, near the Israel-Gaza border, in southern Israel, October 15, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/ Flash90)

The military is also, meanwhile, carrying out an investigation focused on a timeframe from the March 2018 Hamas-led Gaza border riots until October 10, 2023, the point when Israeli troops reestablished control of southern Israel following the attack.

This investigation includes the IDF’s intelligence assessments of Hamas from 2018 until the outbreak of the war, and the military’s conception of its own defenses and its operational plans against threats in Gaza.

Additional IDF probes into October 7, such as the intelligence and decision-making process on the eve of the onslaught, as well as the days leading up to it, will be based on the conclusions of this investigation.

The probes are aimed at drawing operational conclusions for the military and will not look into the policies of the political leadership, avoiding a fight with government leaders who have insisted that investigations must wait until after the end of the war against Hamas.

In late January, Halevi said an external investigation would only be launched once the internal probes were completed.

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman also began to investigate the army’s failures as well as the conduct of the government, although Halevi requested that this be put on hold for now to allow commanders to concentrate on the war.

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