Ofer Winter, Moshe Ya'alon
Ofer Winter, Moshe Ya'alonAriel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense/Flash 90

Givati Brigade Commander Col. Ofer Winter is back in the news over an IDF investigation - several of his soldiers told Arutz Sheva they are convinced that someone is pulling the strings and organizing a targeted "elimination" of him for his religiosity.

The soldiers firmly reject all of the claims being leveled that Winter didn't pass on to his supervisors complaints of sexual abuse of female soldiers by Givati's Tzabar battalion Commander Lt. Col. Liran Hajbi, that he hushed up a rebellion by fighters as well as two suicides, and didn't report on damage caused to a jeep.

According to the soldiers, the latest investigation is part of a campaign by organizations and people, including those in the army, seeking a pretext against Winter - and it all started after he made religious statements at the start of Operation Protective Edge.

Winter was embroiled in a media storm after in a call-up message sent to members of the brigade he wrote that they were going out against "the terrorist Gazan enemy that curses, reviles and insults the G-d of the campaigns of Israel." The criticism against him came from various sources, including then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Likud).

"His call to rely on the G-d of Israel gave strong feelings to many in the army and outside it because of the media storm, since then he's a target for elimination in the eyes of several people, and the attempt now to frame him with covering up some abuse case of some commander is part of the program to eliminate his career," said the soldiers, who refused to add more details.

The talk of a secretive planned campaign comes on the heels of a Knesset debate last month about "religionization" in the IDF, framed as a discussion of Jewish "radicalization" following an increasing religiosity among soldiers during the operation.

Former IDF Chief Rabbi Brig.-Gen. (res.) Rabbi Avichai Ronski slammed the discussion, calling it "anti-Semitic."

Attorney Oded Saborai, who represents Winter, said that the charges against his client in the investigation are baseless because Winter did not cover up the complaints against Hajbi and the other claims but rather passed them on as required.

Sources close to Winter added that it would have been impossible to cover up the investigation, because the IDF's Criminal Investigation Unit (CID) was holding a covert investigation in the brigade on the claims against Hajbi - an investigation Winter was aware of as brigade commander.

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz spoke about the case for the first time on Thursday, saying "we will give the sources connected to the matter full backing in all they ask for, so as to investigate the truth and to exercise justice as required."