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IDF Says Court-martials Possible in Aftermath of Hang-glider Attack

Disciplinary action, including possible court-martial proceedings, may be taken against Israel Defense Force personnel for dereliction of duty when a lone terrorist infiltrated Israel by hang-glider on the night of Nov. 25. The attack killed six IDF soldiers and wounded seven at a military base in upper Galilee.

IDF Chief of Staff Gen. Dan Shomron spoke of the possible disciplinary action Wednesday night upon the completion of a series of inquiries into the incident by the IDF. The investigation apparently found evidence of negligence on the part of the chief operations officer at the camp and a sentry who allegedly deserted his post.

Shomron and other senior IDF officers met with Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin Thursday to brief him on the results of the investigation. Shomron reportedly decided to transfer the commander of the Nahal brigade to which the unit that came under attack belonged.

Nahal is the Hebrew acronym for “Pioneer Fighting Youth,” soldiers who combine agricultural work with military training. Some members have already complained that publicity surrounding the incident has unjustly tarnished Nahal’s reputation.

But the ability of a single terrorist to inflict serious casualties on a heavily armed IDF unit has severely shaken Israelis’ confidence in the IDF’s defense capabilities. The public and the military are all-the-more astonished because the unit had at least 20 to 30 minutes’ advance warning of a terrorist infiltration by air.

SENTRY LEFT POST

The IDF inquiries reportedly revealed that the operations officer — the senior officer at the camp — failed to respond adequately to the alert and did not take proper security measures. The sentry raised no alarm when the terrorist approached the camp and, instead of confronting him, left his post, the IDF found.

The soldiers at the base did not respond to the early alert. In fact, only one soldier actually opened fire on the intruder — and killed him–after he himself was wounded in the leg.

All of these factors have resulted in severe criticism, both inside the IDF and among the civilian population. The military high command is pondering the lessons learned from the incident.

Meir Zorea, a former IDF general and Defense Ministry ombudsman, told Voice of Israel radio Thursday that the fault lies in the failure to instill a proper sense of discipline in all ranks.

Zorea said that while the army displayed a high level of discipline in combat, it did not maintain the same standards in its daily routine. According to Zorea, several generations of IDF officers “have not been brought up in the right way” and failed to observe the proper disciplinary norms.

The incident was a blow to the image of Nahal, which has long been regarded as one of the IDF’s superior fighting units. Most of its soldiers come from kibbutzim and other agricultural settlements.

One group of Nahal trainees, not yet incorporated into the army, wrote this week to Premier Yitzhak Shamir and Defense Minister Rabin complaining about the “lynch atmosphere directed at the Nahal corps.”

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