IDF to discuss security regulations following deadly friendly fire incident

Military Police to question officer who shot his commanders on Sunday

 IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, Ofer Winter and Israeli army officers inspect the area where two officers Maj. Ofek Aharon and Maj. Itamar Elharar from the Egoz commando unit were killed in a friendly fire accident outside a base in the Jordan Valley on January 13, 2022. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, Ofer Winter and Israeli army officers inspect the area where two officers Maj. Ofek Aharon and Maj. Itamar Elharar from the Egoz commando unit were killed in a friendly fire accident outside a base in the Jordan Valley on January 13, 2022.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The Israeli Defense Forces will stop all noncritical activities in order to discuss the recent security events on Sunday. 

During the day all officers and troops will discuss “safety issues, risk management and coordination between troops”, the military said in a statement. Officers will have to brief their soldiers on the issues and “in accordance to regulations”, it added. 

The officer from the elite Egoz commando unit who mistakenly shot and killed two commanders last week will be questioned by the IDF’s Military Police on Sunday.

According to Army Radio, Lt. “N.” was supposed to have been questioned on Thursday but this was postponed due to his emotional state after having killed Maj. Ofek Aharon and Maj. Itamar Elharar.

Walla News reported that despite his distress, N. attended Aharon’s funeral, since he was his commander.

An investigation headed by Maj.-Gen. (res.) Noam Tibon and other commanders has been opened, as well as one by the Military Police.

The probes are expected to examine why the two teams left their base without informing each other and without proper equipment – and whether the officers opened fire too hastily when they could have attempted a suspicious arrest procedure instead. 
 View of Nabi Musa base outside the area where two officers Maj. Ofek Aharon and Maj. Itamar Elharar from the Egoz commando unit were killed in a friendly fire accident outside a base in the Jordan Valley on January 13, 2022.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) View of Nabi Musa base outside the area where two officers Maj. Ofek Aharon and Maj. Itamar Elharar from the Egoz commando unit were killed in a friendly fire accident outside a base in the Jordan Valley on January 13, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The investigation is also expected to examine the recent easing of open-fire regulations against suspected thieves on military bases and firing ranges.

The Nebi Musa training area is just south of Jerusalem and off the road that leads to the Dead Sea. It is frequently used by infantry units and Armored Corps for combat training. There are Palestinian and Bedouin villages nearby that require soldiers to be on alert during and after training sessions.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, the entire unit had gone searching for stolen weapons the day before instead of holding a drill, and two hours before the incident another officer fired in the air after identifying Bedouins who were attempting to steal military equipment at the base.

The military announced two months ago that it was loosening its open-fire regulations, allowing troops to use live fire against suspected thieves on military bases at firing ranges and along the southern borders. Until now, they could only open fire if their lives were in immediate danger.

The IDF has struggled for years to stop theft from military bases, with thousands of weapons and rounds of ammunition having been stolen. Authorities want to stop such weapons – including assault rifles and other firearms, grenades and explosives – from reaching criminal organizations or terrorist groups in the West Bank.

In an interview with Ynet News two weeks before his death, Aharon said that his troops train to be alert to “any situation,” not to be overconfident and to prevent misunderstandings during complex scenarios.

“We are sharp and unequivocal. We are not complacent,” he said. “We train the troops in such a way that they are alert and prepared for any situation.”

An initial probe into the tragedy has found that following a drill at the Nebi Musa base, two teams – uncoordinated and without helmets, vests or radios – voluntarily went out to search for powerful night vision goggles that had been stolen the previous night.
One patrol consisted of three company commanders and a soldier. The other patrol was N. acting alone. While officers on the base knew of the two patrols, they did not know about each other.

The military said that the team with Aharon and Elharar identified a suspicious figure 200 meters away on a mound, flanked him until they were just several meters away, and yelled at him in Arabic.

According to reports, N. felt that his life was in immediate danger and fired towards them from less than 15 meters away. The firefight lasted less than 10 seconds before another member of Elharar and Aharon’s team shouted “IDF, stop!”

The two officers were given emergency medical care on the ground and evacuated by helicopter to Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem, where they were pronounced dead. They were buried on Thursday.