hirsch, gal 298 idf.
(photo credit: IDF)
Commanders who did not fully understand their orders, who were not present with their troops during important battles and even failed to fulfill basic missions, were only some of the grave failures found by an internal IDF committee that probed Division 91's performance during the recent war in Lebanon.
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Led by Maj.-Gen. Yoram (Ya Ya) Yair, the committee probed Division 91, responsible for the border with Lebanon and led by Brig.-Gen. Gal Hirsch, on a number of levels from operational plans drawn up within the division to the handling of logistical issues as well as the division's integration with the top IDF command.
According to a high-ranking officer involved in the probe, Hirsch and his men were questioned over a five-week period during which they were asked "tough and probing" questions about the way the division functioned during the war. One of the problems found during the probe was in the way tactical orders were composed, sometimes without a time element. Since the orders were not clear, they were changed, in some cases, on an hourly basis.
"Brigade commanders did not properly understand their missions," the high-ranking officer said. "They didn't know what their goals were and how long they had to fulfill their missions."
Due to the lack of clarity in the orders, "military forces moved forward and then backward, forward and then backward." In one case the officer said, an entire battalion sat in the same location for several days without moving and when the commander finally received orders to push deeper into enemy territory he was confused and failed to fulfill the mission. The probe further found that territory that had been conquered by the IDF was later abandoned and then taken again.
Except for Paratrooper Brigade Commander Col. Hagai Mordechai, all of the brigade commanders whose troops were fighting in Lebanon spent their time in war rooms set up along the northern border but did not step foot behind enemy lines. "This impacted their understanding of what was going on during the fighting," the officer explained.
The officer called on commanders to take responsibility for their performance during the war. "A commander needs to look at himself as if the fate of the entire war lies on his shoulders and as if there is no one else who can fulfill his mission," said the officer. "A commander needs to know to take responsibility immediately and not wait for his superior officers to push him out."
The probe also found that commanders were not devoted to their missions and in some cases even decided to ignore orders so as not to risk the lives of their soldiers. The overall sense within Division 91, the officer claimed, was that Israel was not at war and that the operations in Lebanon were "standard and routine."
"Since they didn't fully digest that the country was at war then the missions were not given the correct amount of weight and importance by the commanders," said the officer.
Despite the severe failures, the committee, led by Yair, does not plan at this stage to recommend personal sanctions against division commanders and officers. Instead, the committee will review a number of specific cases in which battalion commanders allegedly failed to fulfill their missions and drastically strayed from military norms.
Three other divisions will present interim findings over the coming weeks including Division 162, headed by Brig.-Gen. Guy Zur, an elite reserve division commanded by Brig.-Gen. Eyal Eizenberg and an armored reserve division led by Brig.-Gen. Erez Zuckerman.