Ni'lin battalion commander steps down

Lt.-Col. Omri Burbag allegedtly ordered his soldier to shoot a bound, blindfolded Palestinian in the foot.

soldier shoot pally 224. (photo credit: AP [file])
soldier shoot pally 224.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Lt.-Col. Omri Burbag, the battalion commander who had been suspended for allegedly ordering a soldier to shoot a handcuffed and blindfolded Palestinian stone-thrower, stepped down from his post on Wednesday ahead of an indictment that will likely be submitted against him. Judge Advocate General Brig.-Gen. Avihai Mandelblit decided Wednesday to charge Burbag, commander of Armored Battalion 71, for inappropriate military conduct, a relatively light charge. Mandelblit made his decision after holding hearings with Burbag and the soldier who shot the Palestinian. Burbarg met with OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot on Wednesday morning and submitted his resignation from his post. Sources close to Burbag said he planned to continue his career in the IDF. Later in the day, he met with Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. "I am the commander. I am responsible and I will pay the price. I believe my decision is beneficial for the soldier [who shot the Palestinian], for the battalion and for the entire IDF. I am proud of the IDF, as well as my military service, and I see myself continuing to serve in the military for many years to come," Burbag said at a meeting with officers and soldiers from the battalion on Wednesday afternoon. The shooting took place on July 7 on the outskirts of Ni'ilin, east of Modi'in Illit, where demonstrators have been holding daily protests against construction of the security barrier. In the incident, soldiers imposed a curfew and fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse protesters. Burbag was caught on video leading the blindfolded and handcuffed Palestinian to a military jeep, where the soldier was then seen raising his weapon and discharging a shot. The soldier claimed that Burbag had ordered him to fire, but the officer initially told investigators that all he had told the soldier to do was "shake his gun" to scare the detainee. Burbag then told military police investigators that his order to shoot was said in jest. The soldier has said that "there is no such thing as a joke. He is my battalion commander and I carried out his orders." Burbag's decision to step down from his post played a role in Mandelblit's decision to pursue relatively light charges. Sources close to Burbag insisted Wednesday that he did not leave his post as part of a plea bargain with the JAG but "first and foremost since he felt he needed to take responsibility." "Omri is sure that by what he did was needed due to the incident," sources said. "He saw this as an ethical and moral step; he hopes it will enable a short and quick legal process."