(photo credit: IDF [file])
In one of the largest revolts in IDF history, close to 100 soldiers from Battalion 51 of the Golani Brigade - which lost eight soldiers during the battle over Bint Jbail in Lebanon this past summer - stormed out of their base on Thursday in an act of protest against their new commander.
The soldiers claimed that they were fed up with the tough disciplinary approach of new battalion commander Lt.-Col. David Zini and the IDF's general "lack of compassion" for soldiers who had fought and lost friends in Lebanon. The soldiers said that meetings with psychologists they requested to discuss the effects of the war had been repeatedly postponed by their commanders.
"We did not get what we deserved," said one of the soldiers, who said that Zini also broke with Golani traditions and took away certain privileges granted to veterans of the battalion.
During the Lebanon war, Battalion 51 lost eight soldiers during one day of fighting against Hizbullah in the southern Lebanese village of Bint Jbail. During the fighting, the battalion's deputy commander, Maj. Roi Klein, was killed after he jumped on top of a grenade to save the soldiers standing nearby.
At 2 p.m., close to 100 soldiers walked out the front gate of the Tze'elim training base in southern Israel and began walking along the highway. Golani Brigade commander Col. Tamir Yidai was alerted to the situation and drove south, where he met the soldiers on the road and convinced them to return to base.
Yidai later held a long talk with them, during which he promised to try to correct some of the problems reported by the soldiers.
Thursday's revolt was not the first time that Golani soldiers have walked out of their bases in protest over "unfair" treatment. Last April, 25 soldiers left their base near Metulla to protest their commander's decision to expel a number of their comrades from the battalion.
A high-ranking officer in the brigade said Thursday night that all of the complaints would be looked into, and if there were failures or mistakes made by the commanders, they would be immediately corrected.
"Some of their claims are justified," the officer admitted, referring to delays in medical care and handling of soldiers' personal and domestic issues.