Former IDF chief Shomron dies at 70

Presided over Entebbe raid, Yamit pullout, first intifada.

dan shomron 224 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
dan shomron 224 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Lt.-Gen. (res.) Dan Shomron, the IDF's 13th chief of General Staff, passed away on Tuesday morning, three weeks after suffering a severe stroke. He was 70 years old. On February 5, Shomron was taken to Sourasky (Ichilov) Medical Center in Tel Aviv. He died at the Beit Loewenstein rehabilitation center in Ra'anana. He is survived by his wife and two children. He will be laid to rest on Wednesday at Kiryat Shaul Military Cemetery in Tel Aviv. Friends and colleagues knew Shomron as "a brave soldier who left his mark anywhere he turned." Shomron was born in 1937 at Kibbutz Ashdot Ya'acov, in the Jordan Valley, to Tovah and Eliahu Shomron. He enlisted in the Paratroopers Brigade in 1956 and fought in the Sinai Campaign, in which the IDF conquered the peninsula in 100 hours after Egypt blocked the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping. During the Six Day War, Shomron commanded a unit on the Egyptian front and was the first paratrooper to reach the Suez Canal, a feat that earned him the Distinguished Service Medal. In 1974, Shomron was promoted to brigadier-general and appointed to head the Infantry and Paratroopers Branch, and served in that capacity during the Entebbe rescue operation in 1976. Shomron, as a major-general, led the Southern Command from 1979 to 1983, presiding over the dismantling of the Yamit settlement bloc and army bases in Sinai. Shomron became the first commander of the Ground Forces Command in 1983, in charge of the IDF's infantry, tanks, artillery and combat engineering units. In 1987, shortly before the outbreak of the first Intifada, Shomron was appointed chief of the General Staff. He held this position until 1991, shortly after the start of the first Gulf War. Current Defense Minister Ehud Barak succeeded him. Moshe Arens, who was appointed defense minister when Shomron was chief of General Staff, told The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview from New York on Tuesday: "I planned to visit him once I returned to Israel from the US. Unfortunately, that is something I will not be able to do anymore. "Shomron was a brave soldier and a courageous person who never set his eyes on politics and stayed committed to the security of the state to his last day, even after his release from the IDF," Arens said. "Shomron was a person who had strong opinions about the state's security, and his death is a great loss, of a man who was not afraid to be critical when it came to the Second Lebanon War." Barak said of his predecessor, "Dan was one of the most outstanding and bravest commanders the IDF has ever known. He was a man who made his mark on the security of Israel and on the IDF's operational capability. I have known him for many years, since we both were young captains in the IDF. I loved him dearly. I loved working with him, and I was proud to serve as his deputy and replacement in many of the positions we filled. His death is a great loss to his family, his friends and to the security of the country." After he left the army in 1991, Shomron served as chairman of Israel Military Industries and expressed support for the Third Way Party, which was formed in 1994 when Brig.-Gen. (res.) Avigdor Kahalani broke away from Labor in rejection of the party's willingness to withdraw from the Golan Heights. In October 2006, Shomron accepted the request of then-chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen Dan Halutz to investigate the functioning of the General Staff during the Second Lebanon War. "The war was conducted without a goal," Shomron told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "The prime minister [Ehud Olmert] gave an order to the army to stop the rockets firing at Israel, but the IDF didn't turn this instruction into a military goal." Olmert said in a statement on Tuesday: "Dan Shomron was a brave soldier who left his mark on the fighting spirit of the IDF in several of its historic operations. His death is a loss for the entire Israeli society. Throughout the years, Shomron commanded IDF's operational and senior units, and in all of his positions he earned personal affection, respect and appreciation. "Dan observed all the values of patriotism, commitment to society, and modesty in his conduct as a private and a public figure. I want to express my and the Israeli government's condolences to the Shomron family and to his friends." President Shimon Peres said, "Dan was one of the greatest commanders the IDF has ever known. I remember him commanding the Entebbe raid, which earned its mythic status since we all saw it as impossible. Dan was strong, firm in his opinions, a man of his word, a visionary and one of the most prominent commanders in the history of Israel and the IDF."