Brigadier-General Avi Ronsky
Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Office
Images of kidnapped IDF soldiers
Chief Military Rabbi Brigadier-General Avi Ronsky reached a conclusion last Tuesday night that the information presented to him is enough to declare kidnapped Israel Defense Forces soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev "killed in action".
According to his associates, however, Ronsky won't announce his decision until after the government votes on a prisoner exchange deal with Hizbullah.
The rabbi's aides have said that he told him the medical and intelligence information presented to him last week convinced him that the two troops were dead, but that he may wait with the announcement until Israel and Hizbullah sign the swap deal.
The chief military rabbi held a series of meetings on Monday and Tuesday with IDF intelligence and medical sources. These meetings were also attended by a Mossad official in charge of the MIAs issue.
Ronsky also met with members of the Medical Corps' trauma unit, who formed a medical opinion on the two captives' condition during the Second Lebanon War.
The rabbi was presented with a series of medical opinions, test results and intelligence reports. He held discussions with all the relevant elements and questioned them on the information they hold. While all elements agreed on the tragic fate of one of the soldiers, the fate of the second captive was uncertain.
The thick booklet presented to the rabbi by the unit for the location of soldier missing in action contained reports written by the unit for missile tests, the police's forensic and DNA labs, the trauma unit and forensic medicine experts.
The main details included in the reports were published by Yedioth Ahronoth on Sunday.
"During the incident and the injury, the (first) missing soldier was wearing the examined bullet-proof vest… The damage caused to the car and to the bullet-proof vest is compatible with the firing of RPG bombs… Therefore, it should be concluded that the injuries to the missing soldier's body were caused by a hollow explosive device.
"When the damaged bullet-proof vest was worn by a man whose body structure is similar to that of the missing soldier, we discovered that the injury was caused to the upper part of the chest… The injury caused to the missing soldier could be extensive loss of blood, direct damage to the organs and minor injury from shrapnel.
"Such an injury, as described, is a grave injury in any given situation, which requires urgent and complex surgical treatment. The chance for a person to survive such an injury without receiving immediate complex medical treatment, which requires specialized surgical skills (namely, in an operating room) are close to zero."
Mossad and Military Intelligence officials presented the chief military rabbi with information suggesting the car carrying the abducted troops arrived at a place where they could have received medical treatment (although not of very high quality), bit that the vehicles left the area less than an hour later. According to Medical Corps officials, this period of time was not enough to stabilize the situation of the seriously injured soldier.
'The slightest chance soldier survived'As for the second captive, the report said that "his blood was found on the doorsill, on the ground and on the equipment tossed outside. This goes to show that the missing soldier was injured inside the car.
"In addition, the blood stains found on the side of the equipment compartment on the left point to shots fired from a weapon with high muzzle velocity as the soldier was standing outside the vehicle. The soldier is believed to have lost a lot of blood inside the vehicle. The large amount of blood near the vehicle points to the place where he collapsed. This indicates massive bleeding, apparently from a large blood vessel.
"A double injury (by RPG and high-speed bullets) to the upper part of the body is a serious injury in any given situation and requires urgent and complex surgical treatment. It is uncertain whether the missing soldier survived the initial attack, and if the shots were fired at his chest, the chances he survived are very small. Therefore, the missing soldier was at least seriously injured, and his condition may be even more critical."
The trauma unit officials did not provide an unequivocal opinion regarding the second captive, saying the there was "the slightest chance" that he survived, despite the details described in the grave report.
The chief military rabbi was required to make a decision based on the intelligence information presented on two levels. First, information received during the war, which indicated that the kidnapped soldiers – or their bodies – were taken to a Hizbullah medical facility in Baalbek. This information led to a raid on the facility by an IDF elite unit, which did not generate any new information on the captives.
The rabbi was also presented with "highly confidential" intelligence information received after the war. Ronsky, who was one of the very few people to receive access to this information, was deeply impressed by what he was presented with.
The rabbi told his associates that the medical opinions regarding the first missing soldier were enough, and that the profoundness and depth of the intelligence information were enough to bridge the certain doubt regarding the second captive. He concluded that it was possible to declare Regev and Goldwasser dead.
Sources in the Military Rabbinate said that Ronsky was enraged over the fact that the intelligence information, which is not new, was only brought to his attention last week.