A group of 12 soldiers who belong to a Combat Engineers unit tasked with razing abandoned Gaza Strip structures on Sunday were tried by their commander after threatening to refuse to take part in future settlement evacuation, Ynet has learned.
The 12 soldiers join Corporal Avi Beiber, who was detained after refusing to take part in the demolition operation and yelled out “A Jew doesn’t evacuate a Jew.”
However, as it turns out Beiber was not alone in his objections.
During a difficult conversation with their battalion commander, Lt. Col. Ari Hozeh, soldiers in the company expressed their anger over what they said was army deceit. The troops said they were not prepared for the mission and charged the IDF hid the true mission from them.
“They lied to us and cheated,” one soldier told Ynet. “No one told us what we are going into.”
Some of the soldiers explicitly threatened to put down their weapons and refuse to take part in similar missions in the future.
Troops ask to be excused
The soldiers said the received an order to arrive at Neve Dekalim to take part in an “unspecified mission. The troops said they were told to take their weapons and a protective vest.
“We arrived at the site and saw a bulldozer razing structures,” one soldier told Ynet. “We were told to deploy in the area and secure it so the settlers won’t enter.
The troops said they were stunned to hear about the mission they were tasked with and others noted they would have done everything in their power to stay behind had they known the mission’s true nature.
Some soldiers even turned to their commanders and said they were unable to perform the mission. Those troops were told to assume new positions so they do not have to clash with settlers.
Avi Beiber unhappy about mission
A short while later, settlers and far right activists arrived in the area and clashed with soldiers. At that point, some of the troops turned to their commanders and said they could not continue with the mission armed.
“We were always told that a weapon hung around the neck…is against Arabs. How can you do such thing against Jews?” one soldier said.
Mission kept secret to avoid leaks
Only an hour after the confrontation started, the soldiers were ordered to remove their weapons and place them in one of the military vehicles in the area. Some troops admitted that at certain stages of the operation they expressed passive resistance and chose to watch from the sidelines and act with indifference in order to avoid clashing with settlers.
Following the mission, the battalion commander held a talk with the soldiers and eventually reprimanded 12 of them.
The commander workshops should be held to help soldiers deal with difficult situations, but noted that during the disengagement itself troops would only be deployed in the outer security circle and would not take part in settlement evacuation, the soldiers said.
The commander also told the troops the exact nature of the mission was kept from them in order to avoid leaks, and added only the most senior officers were aware of the plan.