Lebanese women and children cram in a truck as they flee their villages and head for Beirut, April 14 1996..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Dozens of former officers who served in the elite IDF commando unit Maglan came to the defense of one of their comrades, Naftali Bennett, who has been accused of behavior that led to a massacre of scores of Lebanese civilians during an Israeli offensive against Hezbollah nearly 20 years ago.
Bennett’s actions as a commanding officer in Maglan during a ground incursion in southern Lebanon were the focus of an article in the widespread circulation tabloid Yedioth Ahronoth earlier this week.
The article, citing military sources, claimed that Bennett’s poor judgment led his unit into an ambush, requiring supporting IDF troops to fire heavy artillery and weaponry into a densely populated region. The resulting deaths of 102 Lebanese in Kfar Kana prompted international opprobrium, which forced Israel to end Operation Grapes of Wrath.
“We, the commanders of the Maglan unit, without any affiliation with political opinions or partisan organizations, reject the attacks that were made against Naftali Bennett in recent days in the press,” the officers wrote in a statement.
The letter goes on to say that Bennett “acted with professionalism, sound judgment, determination, and great responsibility while demonstrating much discipline, and any attempt to suggest otherwise is untrue, misleading, and biased.”
The former commandos urged the public “to cease these unbecoming attacks which drag the actions of the army into the election campaign.”
“Naftali, who was a platoon commander in Maglan, led many successful operations that led to the elimination of Hezbollah terrorists deep in enemy territory,” the letter reads.
According to local media, the signatories of the letter include former Sayeret Matkal commander Maj. Gen. (res.) Shai Avital, who was Bennett’s battalion commander; former Maglan commander Maj. Gen. (res.) Assaf Shavit; Col. (res.) Roni Balkin; another former Maglan commander, Lt. Col. Eyal Dayan, the current deputy commander of Maglan, and numerous other officers.