'Mistake was made rushing into Gaza'

Officer: Despite mistakes in battle in which 3 troops died, decision to "strive for contact" was correct.

soldiers rest gaza 224 (photo credit: AP [file])
soldiers rest gaza 224
(photo credit: AP [file])
Tactical mistakes were made by the commander of the Givati infantry company that lost three men during a battle with Hamas terrorists in northern Gaza on Wednesday, according to an initial IDF inquiry. At the same time, a top officer from the Southern Command said the company commander's decision to immediately engage the terrorists and to "strive for contact" was correct under the circumstances. "There were tactical mistakes in the unit's performance," the senior officer said. "Not everything can be done perfectly." Just before 7 a.m., reconnaissance units spotted two Palestinians moving toward the border fence in northern Gaza, opposite the fields of Kibbutz Be'eri. Two Jeeps led by a company commander from the Givati Brigade's Zabar Battalion quickly arrived and unloaded, and 12 soldiers entered Gaza to engage the two terrorists who appeared to be planning to plant a bomb along the security fence. The soldiers soon came under a hail of machine gunfire from a second terrorist force positioned on a hill, apparently to provide cover for the two gunmen near the fence. In the afternoon, OC Gaza Division Brig.-Gen. Moshe "Chico" Tamir entered Gaza to retrace the route the troops had taken. He concluded that the Givati soldiers had not run into a planned ambush but rather got caught in the crossfire of the gunmen who had planned to provide cover for the two terrorists planting the bomb. "This was not an ambush," a senior officer said, dismissing reports that the two terrorists were bait to draw the soldiers into Gaza. "They got caught by the cover force, which was not spotted by the troops or reconnaissance units beforehand." According to the top officer, a key mistake that led to the casualties was not taking the time to first study the terrain and therefore identify the terrorist cover unit on the high ground. Nevertheless, the senior officer said the company commander did well in rushing into Gaza with the aim of engaging the terrorists, one of whom was wounded during the gun battles. "In a war you need to attack, since there is no other way to engage an enemy," the officer said. "We don't have tanks everywhere and we don't have a choice in this terror war but to always strive for close contact with the enemy." Other IDF sources said the company commander could not be blamed for immediately rushing into Gaza after the two terrorists were spotted. In recent months, OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant dismissed two mid-level Givati commanders from the army after they failed to engage terrorists during operations in Gaza. "After this happens, every commander is nervous they will make the same mistake," an IDF source said. "This commander cannot be blamed for trying to follow the values that were set down by the General Staff."