Ashkenazi fires commander who oversaw Nahal Oz attack

Lt. Col. Yair Baranes dismissed for failing to engage enemy; IDF sources: This sends a message throughout the army.

Ashkenazi 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Ashkenazi 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In a rare move, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi on Monday night decided to dismiss a battalion commander who, according to military probes, failed to engage the Islamic Jihad terrorists who infiltrated the Nahal Oz fuel depot and killed two Israelis. Ashkenazi's decision to fire Lt.-Col. Yair Baranes, commander of Battalion 9 of the 401 Armored Brigade, came after two probes conducted by the Central and Southern Commands concluded that the officer had failed to operate according to correct military procedure during the attack. Two Israelis were killed in Nahal Oz on April 9 when four Islamic Jihad terrorists infiltrated the depot, the main conduit for gas supplies transferred from Israel to Gaza. Shortly after the incident, Baranes asked his immediate commander to release him from his duties and allow him to step down from his command of the battalion. Baranes came under criticism for not immediately engaging the terrorists during the infiltration, and instead waiting for additional forces to arrive. IDF sources said Ashkenazi's decision to fire the high-ranking officer was meant to send a message throughout the IDF that forces in combat are always expected to engage the enemy. Ashkenazi has stressed this military principle as one of the most important values needed among IDF officers - particularly after the Second Lebanon War, when a number of commanders failed to engage Hizbullah, preferring to use standoff capabilities or to withdraw their forces.