IDF dismisses officer, soldier for mistakenly firing at settlement security guards

Several other officers censured, jailed over ‘extremely serious’ incident in mid-December; head of Central Command says ‘miracle’ nobody was hurt

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

File: Israeli troops operate in the West Bank, December 28, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
File: Israeli troops operate in the West Bank, December 28, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces said Sunday that it had dismissed an officer and a soldier for opening fire at security guards from a West Bank settlement last month, after mistakenly identifying them as Palestinian rock throwers. Several more senior officers were also punished over the incident.

During the incident on December 13, soldiers at a military post near Ofra received a report that Palestinians were hurling rocks at Israeli vehicles on Route 60, the West Bank’s main north-south highway.

The troops who were dispatched to the scene saw two figures on the side of the road whom they believed to be throwing rocks and then radioed in for permission to open fire, but got no answer, according to the probe.

One of the soldiers began to shoot at the suspects regardless, in apparent contravention of the IDF’s open-fire protocols.

The shooting only stopped after the two Ofra security guards phoned the local army headquarters, and they then told the soldiers to cease fire over the radio.

“The incident is extremely serious and is incompatible with the professional standards expected of commanders and soldiers, while violating orders and procedures,” the IDF said in a statement.

A picture taken on October 14, 2020, shows a partial view of the Israeli settlement of Ofra on the eastern outskirts of Ramallah in the West Bank. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP/ File)

The head of the IDF’s Central Command, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, who led the investigation, said it was “a miracle” nobody was hurt.

The probe also found several other “serious issues” with the battalion involved and its commanders.

The battalion commander — a lieutenant colonel — received a formal censure on his record, as did his deputy.

Meanwhile, the commander of the company involved in the shooting was sentenced to military prison for an unspecified amount of time; the soldier who opened fire was dismissed from serving in combat roles; and the officer, the deputy commander of the company, was also dismissed from his position, the IDF said.

The incident came during a months-long surge in violence in the West Bank, with the IDF pressing on with an anti-terror effort, following a series of terror attacks that left 31 people dead in 2022.

The IDF’s operation netted more than 2,500 arrests in near-nightly raids. It also left 170 Palestinians dead, many of them while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces, though some were uninvolved civilians.

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