A Combat Engineering fighter was seriously injured about two weeks ago in a post located on Israel's northern border. His comrades and commanders decided to cover up the circumstances of the incident, failing to reveal the fact that the squad's soldiers played their weapons over a long period of time, Ynet has learned.
A substitute paramedic, who had the courage to reveal what he saw, led to the commanders' suspension.
The Military Advocacy filed a harsh indictment against the soldier involved in the incident for illegal use of weapons and aggravated injury. The indictment followed an interrogation of some 20 soldiers, most of them under caution, as well as a command inquiry.
The grave incident took place on December 15 in the community of Tzurit, located on the northern border. Soldiers of the Combat Engineering's 603rd Battalion were engaged in routine security activity when they suddenly heard a gunshot sound.
Shortly afterwards, they learned that a bullet had been discharged from a soldier's weapon, hitting his comrade in the stomach. The injured fighter was flown to a hospital in serious condition and underwent surgery.
Less than a day after the incident, the assistant battalion commander held personal talks with the post's soldiers, who did not report of anything unusual. The commanders failed to describe any unusual phenomenon either. One of the unit's commanders admitted, however, that a substitute paramedic who had stayed in the squad for about two weeks, told him that he had not been surprised by the incident.
The paramedic was summoned by the assistant battalion commander and told him that he had witnessed two incidents in which soldiers played with their weapons, including the one who was later injured.
"It's just a joke," he was told by the soldier, who did not imagine that the game would later almost cost him his life.
The battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Shahar Beck decided to launch an extensive investigation, which included personal talks and a clarification that the truth would be revealed in any event.
Beck found out that the soldiers and commanders had lied in the initial inquiry and that the phenomenon of playing with weapons had begun when the soldiers were trained at the engineering school.
The battalion commander noted that the "conspiracy of silence" had made it difficult to understand the phenomenon and its extent. Lieutenant Colonel Beck also determined that the silence had likely led to the severe injury. He ruled that the squad commanders had failed their duties.
In light of the findings, and after consulting the commander of the brigade the battalion belongs to, it was decided to suspend the three commanders immediately. In addition, the squad was suspended from operational activity. It was later decided to dissolve the unit completely.
"It's sad that IDF fighters have failed to internalize just the severity of playing with weapons and the norm of reporting the truth," said a military source. "This phenomenon almost cost the life of human being. Such incidents must be denounced and those involved must be severely punished as a lesson for all to see."
The IDF Spokesperson's Office said in response, "An extensive and thorough investigation was conducted following the incident. An information workshop was held. The battalion's commanding staff held talks and took all the required measures to prevent such incidents from repeating themselves."