‘Those who failed should resign’: Be’eri residents respond to IDF probe into assault

Community statement from kibbutz worst hit on Oct. 7 calls for state commission of inquiry, while some survivors fume at what they see as a lackluster investigation

Residential homes, severely damaged during Hamas's October 7 onslaught on southern Israel, line a street in the Olives Neighborhood of Kibbutz Be'eri on January 1, 2024. (Canaan Lidor/Times of Israel)
Residential homes, severely damaged during Hamas's October 7 onslaught on southern Israel, line a street in the Olives Neighborhood of Kibbutz Be'eri on January 1, 2024. (Canaan Lidor/Times of Israel)

Reacting to the results of the army’s probe into the most deadly Hamas attack on a single border community on October 7, Kibbutz Be’eri issued a statement Thursday declaring that the investigation was not enough to restore their trust in the army, and calling for a state commission of inquiry to be opened. But some individual residents fumed.

The IDF held a presentation for residents Thursday at one of the hotels at the Dead Sea where displaced members of Be’eri have been staying since October 7. The army also sent individual representatives to families of those killed in the kibbutz.

The probe was made public at 7 p.m. local time.

Among other things, the extensive probe investigated one of the most controversial incidents of the battles in Be’eri, during which IDF tanks shelled the house of resident Pessi Cohen, where Hamas was holding hostages. A gun battle ensued and 13 of 15 hostages were killed.

Reaction from the families following the presentation was mixed.

One resident told Channel 13 that tempers flared when IDF representatives presented the findings of the probe to Be’eri survivors, who lamented that it “did touch on lessons to be learned or include assumption of personal responsibility.”

“The IDF acted irresponsibly regarding Gaza border communities and the leadership needs to draw the appropriate conclusions,” Sharon Sharabi, whose brothers Eli and Yossi Sharabi were taken hostage, told Channel 12. Yossi was later killed in captivity.

Yossi (left) and Eli Sharabi, brothers who were taken hostage by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023 (Courtesy)

“People were slaughtered in their homes. The top command should draw conclusions and those who failed should resign,” he said, adding that the army abandoned the kibbutz’s civilian security squad that day.

Be’eri resident and former Eshkol Regional Council chair Haim Jelin told the Walla news site it was too early to know whether the probe would lead to the restoration of residents’ faith in the army, acknowledging that everyone was processing the news differently.

He indicated that the IDF probe determined that while many soldiers as well as civilians hastened to the kibbutz as the attack was underway to try and save Be’eri residents, there was no one in charge of the counterattack as “everyone waited for their commanders instead of going in at once.”

Another resident told Kan news that the probe didn’t provide Be’eri survivors with information they didn’t already know. “It wasn’t until 6 p.m. that large Israeli forces managed to enter the kibbutz. We knew that. In the meantime, they didn’t give us an answer as to why the IDF and Air Force weren’t there until that time.”

Another told Channel 13 that the IDF probe appeared to be “serious and thorough.”

The kibbutz in its official statement said the probe helped show the residents how many different crises the IDF was dealing with at neighboring border towns while Be’eri was under attack. The community noted that the IDF did take responsibility for what had happened and apologized, but made clear that it still wanted a state commission of inquiry in order to provide residents with more answers to help them heal.

A group of Israelis visit a house damaged during Hamas’s October 7 attack in Kibbutz Be’eri, January 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

The fighting at Be’eri, one of the largest Gaza-border communities, comprised numerous incidents and many different Israeli units were involved. In all, 101 civilians and 31 security personnel were killed in Be’eri — a community of around 1,000 residents — and a further 30 residents and two more civilians were taken hostage by the Hamas terrorists, 11 of whom still remain in Gaza.

The probe, led 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 Cohen’s house.

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 15 hostages. One hostage was able to leave before this took place, alongside a terrorist who surrendered to the forces.

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)

The tank eventually fired several shells toward the house and a gun battle ensued. Thirteen of the 14 Israelis remaining in the house were found dead by its end, with only one survivor.

The probe provides a large number of details of the incident at Pessi Cohen’s house.

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

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

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