Officer tear gassed soldiers' tent 'out of love'

Paratroopers platoon commander on trial for throwing tear gas grenade into tent to punish sleeping soldiers.

Matt Wanderman ,

Firing a smoke grenade (illustration)
Firing a smoke grenade (illustration)
Issam Rimawi/Flash 90

A platoon leader in the IDF paratroopers is facing a military court trial for throwing a tear gas grenade into his soldiers' tent earlier this year, Yedioth Ahronoth reports.

The commander says he wanted to punish the soldiers for oversleeping, but also that he chose his actions out of consideration for their feelings. 

"I am a commander who gets his hands deep in dirt and as a result I argue sometimes with soldiers who think that they deserve too much," he said. "I did it out of love and an attempt not to deprive them of going home (a common punishment in the IDF - ed.), which is the most important thing to them."

The soldiers, however, see things differently. They say the commander was known for being "intolerant" and "a violent person."

One recalled: "The commander came into the tent at 7:15 am while we were sleeping. He threw a grenade, and the whole tent went white. After a minute everyone got out, but there was one injured soldier with crutches inside a sleeping bag and it took him a few minutes to get out with the help of his friends. The soldiers were tearing up, and they started choking from all the smoke. Another soldier was vomiting, and another one hit himself on a metal peg of the tent. I broke my toe, myself."

Another soldier said, "I was choking. My eyes swelled up. There were burns on my face. I vomited. He would always wake us up violently."

Other officers support the suspect's actions, to varying degrees.

The brigade commander described the incident as a "blow to the trust between a platoon leader and a soldier. There are red lines. It is forbidden to violate the honor of a soldier, of a Palestinian etc. The most basic contract is the one between a commander and a soldier."

At the same time, he added: "In light of the fact that it was carried out in an environment in which unconventional acts such as these prevailed, he should not be dismissed...The main message is that the correct path is to fight against incidents such as these."

The company commander noted that "During the period of the current leader's predecessor, the platoon was known for it lack of discipline and for unusual norms - something which left behind many negative standards. Discipline and norms are a central component of the job of a platoon commander."

A statement from the IDF spokesperson unit called the incident "very serious and exceptional which does not correspond with the values of the IDF or the expectations of its commanders."