Oferk Aharon and Itamar Elharar
Oferk Aharon and Itamar Elharar picture used with permission of family

In recent days, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi has been shown the results of the investigation into the deadly friendly fire incident last month in which Major Ofek Aharon and Major Itamar Elharar from the Egoz Unit were killed.

The results of the investigation were presented to the commander of the Central Command, Major General Yehuda Fuchs, as well as a committee of experts for systemic examination and lessons learned, headed by Major General (Res.) Noam Tibon.

The unfortunate incident in the Egoz Unit originated in a command initiative, as part of protection against theft and in order to preserve the unit's weapons. The investigations show that Major Elharar and Major Aharon were injured and killed by the fire of fellow IDF soldiers, which was fired by a unit commander in the unit, Lt. N., and that they also fired their weapons during the incident,

It is not possible to determine with certainty who opened fire first. It was found that the two were killed during the incidents, and could not be resuscitated. The direct cause of the officers' deaths was a shooting committed by Lieutenant N., as a result of a mistake in identification and his state of mind which led him to believe his life was in danger.

It also appears that other factors contributed to the incident - the departure of the team commander for the mission alone, without approval, without coordination and while crossing the border and also the departure of the company commanders in an unprofessional manner.

The investigations show that the incident did not occur due to a security problem in the training areas and not due to gaps in the instructions for opening fire. The committee also found that in recent years, with an emphasis on 2021, the IDF has taken many actions that have been found to be effective in preventing the theft of weapons in the training areas, which has led to a significant decrease in thefts in the IDF.

The Chief of Staff expressed his appreciation to the committee and its head, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Noam Tibon, to the Commando Brigade and the Brigade Unit for the professional investigations.

The Chief of Staff stated that "this is a very difficult and serious incident that could and should have been prevented. The incident was due to deficiencies in professionalism, non-compliance with orders and, first and foremost, a serious error in judgment." The Chief of Staff added that "professionalism and strict adherence to the orders as they are are two sides of the same coin, and they enable the fulfillment of the mission and the preservation of human life. Professionalism and discipline are also the basis for initiative. We are committed in every task to take care as much as possible to have careful and meticulous planning of every step and every detail in the operation, training and every routine activity, while locating ahead of time points of failure and weakness that could lead to malfunctions. We must not compromise in the slightest on the safety, health and lives of our soldiers."

Following the investigations and receipt of the committee's report, the Chief of Staff held talks and discussions with the officers of the General Staff and the commanders to clarify the lessons and findings and to formulate the necessary steps in response. In light of the findings of the investigations and their conclusions, the Chief of Staff has decided to cancel the appointment of the unit's commander, Lt. Col. A., to the position of Brigadier General and his promotion will be delayed for two years. In the next two years, the commander of Division B, Major Y., will leave his position and he will not serve in a command position for the next two years. Staff Sergeant C, a soldier in the unit, will be discharged from combat.

Along with these decisions, which directly concern the difficult event, the Chief of Staff stated that extensive systemic actions should be taken to prevent a recurrence of such cases.

Thus, he ordered a number of systemic moves in all IDF units, the purpose of which is ensure that the kind of unprofessional conduct which led to this incident is uprooted from the IDF.