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With rise in Palestinian deaths, IDF head says no room for troops’ ‘negligence’

Kohavi tells commanders to bring West Bank under control, as violence rises: ‘We’ll support you when you use judgment, even if you make mistakes, but will not tolerate negligence’

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

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi speaks at a ceremony in Jerusalem, on August 11, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi speaks at a ceremony in Jerusalem, on August 11, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi told troops on Wednesday that the military would not tolerate reckless disregard for human life, amid an uptick in the number of Palestinians killed by soldiers in the West Bank in recent months.

Since May, more than 40 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops — soldiers and border guards — including in a number of cases with questionable circumstances, most notably the shooting of a 12-year-old boy in what the Israel Defense Forces described as an apparent case of misidentification.

Kohavi appeared to address those recent events on Wednesday night in a speech marking Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs becoming head of the IDF Central Command. In his remarks, Kohavi acknowledged the difficulties of operating within a civilian area and said the military would support soldiers who make mistakes, but would not accept “negligence.”

“You are operating in an environment that is densely populated and rough, full of conflict and threats, and in many cases it is not clear who is the enemy and who is innocent. This is a treacherous and violent environment that is full of dilemmas. It is our job to deal with those dilemmas and to integrate completing our mission, protecting our troops and refraining from harming innocents,” Kohavi said.

“We will support you when you follow your professional doctrines, but we will deeply criticize those who do not. We will support you when you follow orders, but we will not accept deviations. We will support you when you use judgment, even if you make mistakes, but we will not tolerate negligence,” he said.

Fuchs replaced Maj. Gen. Tamir Yadai, who has served in the position for one year, which is far less than normal. Yadai will soon take over as head of the IDF Ground Forces, succeeding Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick.

The past three months have seen a significant increase in violence in the West Bank, beginning in early May with riots and protests amid tensions in Jerusalem over the Temple Mount and a court case regarding the potential eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. Those clashes picked up in mid-May with the outbreak of fighting between Israel and terror groups in the Gaza Strip.

Though the situation has calmed somewhat since then, tensions in the West Bank remain high.

There have also been a number of recent attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinian villages, some of which included potentially problematic cooperation with Israeli troops. In one case, a masked, off-duty soldier opened fire at a Palestinian village without a clear reason while other, active soldiers stood by; in another, a soldier gave a settler a gun that was then used to shoot at Palestinians. Both cases are being investigated within the IDF Central Command and by Military Police.

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