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Soldiers Say Commander's Dismissal After Arab Riot Political

Soldiers say their deputy battalion commander's dismissal after a lethal incident during an Arab riot was purely political.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 10/25/2011, 6:26 PM

Prototypical Riot
Prototypical Riot
Flash 90

Last week Col. Yoav Zikaron, the deputy commander of the Haruv (Carrob) battalion, was dismissed for a deadly fire incident that occurred during a riot in the village of Kosrae on the eve of Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas' statehood bid at the United Nations.

The decision to dismiss Zikaron from his post was taken by senior IDF officers despite the fact that the IDF's own investigation determined that soldiers in his platoon only opened fire, killing one, when their lives were clearly under threat.

During the riot soldiers used less-than-lethal means and standard riot control techniques, but at one point a group of Arabs on a hillside above some of the soldiers began hurling large stones capable of maiming or killing the soldiers necessitating the prompt use of live fire.

Zikaron's dismissal caused outrage in his unit, whose soldiers wrote a letter to their battalion commander condemning the move and calling for IDF commanders to retract the move and questioning the motives behind it.

"We honor our commander, who was a responsible officer and taught us to strive for success even at the risk of our lives," they wrote. "The acts for which he was tried and dismissed are those acts required of every officer and soldier in combat, and we would all do the same."

"Engaging in combat, including confronting rioters, is the basis for a real soldiering. We believe our commander exercised due discretion and was correct. But even if a senior officer errors, the punishment of dismissal is not proportionate, and is cruel and unusual," they continued. "Such treatment will make the future any soldier or officer to hesitate at the critical moment of engagement."

The soldiers also questioned the motives behind Zikaron's dismissal, saying they believe it was politically motivated, "We feel the decision was taken because the political issue [Abbas' statehood bid -ed.] was the same day. The senior officers' response was extremely strict, as if they were angry they did not receive the silence demanded by our politicians."

"Therefore, we regret that we can only conclude our deputy commander was punished based on political considerations. We demand redress and thereby send a message of good and loyal soldiers, while constantly striving to attain our goals, and to prevent a breach of trust not in standing with the IDF spirit," the concluded.

The Haruv battalion’s commander was outraged by the letter and reportedly assembled the men of the company to reprimand them for its writing.

The Yesha Council said in response, "The Haruv commander's decision to remove an outstanding officer after the life-threatening incident with Arab rioters weakens our warriors' spirits and neuters their operational capability by undermining the basic values of every soldier. We hope the legacy of outgoing Yesha Division Commander Nitzan Alon will not be continued in his replacement."