Probe clears officers of wrongdoing in death of border guard during Gaza riots

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

The Israel Defense Forces’ probe into the killing of a Border Police sniper during a Gaza border riot earlier this year, which was released on Monday, clears the commanders involved of wrongdoing and blames the outcome on a “professional error,” not negligence.

The results of the probe draw fire from the family of Barel Hadaria Shmueli, who died after being shot on August 21 as Palestinians in the Gaza Strip held a large demonstration along the Gaza border, near the defunct Karni Crossing.

Barel Hadaria Shmueli, a Border Police officer who was shot dead by a Gaza gunman at the border in August 2021 (Courtesy)

At one point during the demonstration, dozens of rioters suddenly rushed the border barrier, running up to a hole in the concrete wall that was being used by Israeli snipers as a firing position.

One man, armed with a pistol, approached this hole in the wall, stuck the gun through it and fired three times. One of these shots struck Shmueli in the head, critically wounding him. He died of his injury on August 30.

The findings of the investigation were shared with Shmueli’s family earlier this morning.

Palestinian protesters at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Gaza City, on August 21, 2021. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The probe found a number of errors in how the military responded to the riot, particularly in the decision to station troops against the concrete wall where they were exposed, but cleared the officers involved — even praising their actions — and again disputed a claim that overly restrictive open-fire regulations were at fault.

Shmueli’s family criticizes the investigation’s findings. “Barel is gone and the commander of the Northern [Gaza] Brigade (Col. Yoav Bruner), the person who was responsible for the area, received a promotion after this event and now in the internal military investigation gets a citation,” the family says in a statement, referring to Bruner’s transfer to serve as commander of the Paratroopers Brigade in October.

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