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Pointing to a number of operational mishaps and glitches, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland on Monday presented to Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz the findings from his investigation into the circumstances surrounding the Kerem Shalom terror attack two weeks ago.
The committee described the attack as stemming from an "operational failure" and said this was especially apparent in contrast to the IDF's numerous successes in protecting Jewish communities on the outskirts of the Gaza Strip since disengagement, including the thwarting of 61 infiltration attempts from Gaza into Israel.
But despite the operational flaws in the IDF's setup around Gaza and its preparation for the attack, Eiland's committee refrained from recommending sanctions against officers in the Gaza Division. The only penalty being considered was the entering of the incident in the personal files of several senior officers from the Southern Command, including Col. Avi Peled, commander of the Southern Gaza Brigade.
There were a number of mistakes in the IDF's setup outside of Gaza, Eiland said, made not only on the battalion and brigade levels but also on the higher decision-making levels, including in the Southern Command and the General Staff. He said, however, that the mistakes were not what caused the unfortunate results of the attack - the kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Shalit and the deaths of two additional soldiers.
Whereas many originally believed that the intelligence obtained before the attack was faulty, the committee found that the quality of the intelligence was reasonable and had been properly transmitted by Military Intelligence to the brigade and battalion commanders.
During the committee's work, Eiland said the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) refused to participate in the investigation until it first conducted its own independent probe into the intelligence obtained regarding the attack.
Eiland pointed to a number of shortcomings in the tank crew's performance and recommended that, in the future, crews serving in the area of the border with Gaza be able to see 360 around them, including the areas behind the watchtowers and inside Israel. After the tank was hit by an RPG, the crew, including Shalit, ran out the back hatch, meeting head-on the terrorists waiting behind the tank.
Eiland also criticized the battalion commanders, who he said took a long time to reach Shalit's tank after it was hit by the rocket because they mistakenly decided to first send an armored vehicle to ensure that the area was not booby-trapped. Valuable time was lost, during which Shalit was abducted and smuggled into the Gaza Strip, Eiland explained.
The Palestinian terror groups, Eiland said, have drastically improved their abilities since Israel withdrew from Gaza 10 months ago. The lack of cooperation between the official Palestinian security services and the IDF as well as Hamas's decision to engage in terror activity also led to the attack's severe outcome.
"There is no doubt that this incident was the result of an operational failure," Halutz said upon receiving Eiland's report. "This is a failure since in every encounter with our enemies these types of results cannot be allowed to happen."
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