IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz on Thursday accepted the recommendation of IDF Southern Commander Maj. Gen. Sami Turgeman to relieve from duty an infantry battalion commander embroiled in an alleged sexual harassment and cover-up scandal.
Lt. Col. Liran Hajbi, commander of the Tzabar unit in the Givati Brigade, was removed from his post.
Hajbi, who led troops during the summer conflict in the Gaza Strip, has for several weeks been the subject of an undercover Military Police investigation into a complaint by a female soldier, who said he had sexually harassed her.
Hajbi has denied the accusations vehemently, but took a leave of absence from his post when the investigation was made public last week — “so that the battalion won’t be affected by this,” he reportedly told his associates.
Hajbi’s attorney, IDF chief defense counsel Col. Asher Halperin, said last week that Hajbi insisted he was innocent and had asked for a lie-detector test and the chance to confront his accuser.
The Military Police investigation has also yielded suspicions that officers further up the chain of command tried to cover up the affair.
Hajbi’s superior, Givati Brigade commander Col. Ofer Winter, was among those questioned, but was later cleared of suspicions. Military Police investigators examined whether Winter had fulfilled his responsibility to report the complaints against his accused underling to military authorities, but eventually decided to close the case against him.
After the harassment complaint against Hajbi became public, soldiers began coming forward with other complaints. Several soldiers under Hajbi’s command have reportedly complained that the battalion commander forged documents to cover up car accidents involving military vehicles as well.