Daily Israel Report

IDF Officer Escapes Arab Murderers

An IDF Intelligence officer and his driver mistakenly entered the Balata slums in PA-controlled Shechem, prompting residents to shoot at them.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 7/20/2007, 11:23 AM

Residents of the Palestinian Authority-controlled city of Shechem happened upon two Israelis who made a wrong turn and became lost - and immediately began shooting at them.

The IDF officer in charge of the mis-turned vehicle, who miraculously escaped the near-lynching together with his driver, has been placed in military prison for ten days for his miscalculation.

It happened last week, and was released for publication only today (Friday).  An IDF Intelligence Corps officer of the Egoz Unit, relatively new to the Shechem area, departed last Friday afternoon (July 13) from the Shomron Regiment headquarters in the area.  Instead of turning left towards the Tapuach Junction, however, he instructed his driver to turn right - towards the dangerous Balata slums.

Shortly afterwards, they came upon the IDF's Hawara checkpoint, near Yitzhar and Itamar.  The soldiers, whose job it is to check Arabs leaving Shechem but also to ensure that Jews do not enter the area, allowed the two to pass through into PA-controlled area.  They later explained that they assumed the officer knew what he was doing.

He did not, however.  He and his driver soon found themselves in the middle of Shechem, where they encountered a Palestinian Authority police checkpoint.  This quickly cleared up matters for them, and they made a U-turn. 
Within a short time, they were seen by a group of armed Arabs in a car, who quickly took off in pursuit of their prey, shooting at them all the while with their Kalachnikov rifles.  Seven bullets hit the IDF Toyota, and within seconds, the tires had been shot out and the Israelis found themselves driving on tire rims alone.  The chase continued nearly up to the Hawara checkpoint, and only there did the officer and his driver manage to escape.
IDF forces attempted to find the attempted murderers and their car, but with no success. 

Both the wrong-turn officer and the checkpoint commander were investigated by army officials.  The officer said he did not notice the signs saying he was entering forbidden-to-Jews PA-controlled territory - a mistake that nearly cost him his life, but for which he paid with prison time instead.

The IDF Spokesman issued the following statement: "The IDF views this incident very gravely, and investigated it accordingly; the instructions were then sharpened in keeping with the findings.  The incident occurred because of a mistake by the officer and his lack of knowledge of the area. He was tried by his commanders and sentenced to time in prison.  The commander responsible for the checkpoint was made to stand disciplinary trial by his commanders."

The elite Egoz Unit of the Golani Brigade is set to arrive in the Shechem region in the coming weeks and will engage in anti-terrorism activities.  The intelligence officer, who often accompanies soldiers into dangerous areas, was there to get to know the area.

The story's release was accompanied by the hurling of three home-made grenades at IDF forces operating in another slum neighborhood in Shechem.  The forces also found and neutralized a bomb in the area.  No one was hurt.  IDF forces in Jenin also escaped injury Thursday night when an explosive was hurled at them.