Hundreds gathered on Thursday for the funerals of Maj. Ofek Aharon and Maj. Itamar Elharar, two officers killed in a friendly fire incident a night earlier, as the father of one urged the military to provide answers.
“I want an explanation from [IDF Chief of Staff Aviv] Kohavi,” Aharon’s father, Eli, said during the funeral at the military plot of Gan Yavne’s cemetery.
The late officer’s sister Daniel said: “You had so many plans. You didn’t want to die, I know. You kept everybody safe, but they didn’t keep you safe.”
During Elharar’s funeral, held at the military plot of Kiryat Malachi’s cemetery, his mother said she “could not believe it was possible, that you would leave the house on your last journey.”
“I always warned you, ‘Itamar take care of your soldiers, be careful.’ Everywhere you went you left such a big mark, you left a legacy,” she said.
“It is difficult to describe my brother Itamar, modest, impressive, quiet, and powerful,” Lt. Col. A., the commander of Aharon and Elharar’s elite Egoz Unit — identified only by his first initial — said.
“How can I describe and summarize such an impressive person in a few words? A humble leader, imbued with values from home, always leading and showing modesty,” A. added.
Elharar, 26, was set to begin a part-time university program while staying in the military, while Aharon, 28, was scheduled to be promoted next summer, either to a higher position within Egoz or to the Golani Brigade, where he would serve as a deputy battalion commander, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, commander of the IDF Central Command, said.
Kohavi vowed on Thursday that the deaths would be thoroughly investigated.
Retired major general Noam Tibon will lead the probe, alongside another to be conducted by Military Police, who are required to open an investigation into every soldier’s death.
According to Fuchs, on Wednesday night, two patrols from Egoz set out from the shooting range next to the Nabi Musa base in the Jordan Valley, separately and unaware of one another, in order to find a person who had stolen night-vision equipment from the base the day before and to prevent further thefts.
One patrol consisted of three company commanders and a soldier, while the second was an officer acting alone. Other officers on the base were informed of the two patrols, but they did not know about each other, Fuchs told reporters on Thursday.
Shortly before 11 p.m., the group of four commandos, using night vision capabilities, spotted the lone officer and believed he was an armed suspect.
They approached him and as they got within close range, he noticed them as well with his own night-vision capabilities.
Believing he had come upon a group of armed suspects, the officer apparently opened fire first, killing the two officers before realizing that they were fellow IDF servicemen, according to the preliminary probe.
Visiting the Nabi Musa base, Kohavi sent his condolences to the officers’ families and promised to investigate the incident “rigorously and to learn lessons” from it.
“The incident last night was incredibly serious and deeply upsetting. Preserving human life is at the top of our priorities,” Kohavi said.
The deaths came a week after two IAF pilots were killed in a helicopter crash in the sea off the coast of Haifa.