TEL AVIV (Nov. 22)
A company commander of the crack Givati Brigade has been relieved of his duties, and five soldiers were ousted from the prestigious military unit for their part in events that led to the suicide of Sgt. Eli Shahar, an Israel Defense Force spokesman announced Tuesday night.
Shahar shot himself Saturday after being “tried” by a kangaroo court of his peers. His family has charged he was systematically harassed by his superior officer and by soldiers in the ranks.
The disciplinary action was ordered by Maj. Gen. Matan Vilna’i, head of the IDF Southern Command, to which the Givati Brigade is attached.
Vilna’i acted after reviewing the findings of an investigation conducted personally by the brigade commander, whom the spokesman identified only as Col. “Y.”
Shahar’s company commander, Capt. Seren Amir, reportedly told the investigation that he ordered two soldiers to give Shahar a tough “motivation talk” and assign him to two hours of guard duty wearing a steel helmet, which Shahar allegedly had refused to wear during a live fire exercise.
Shahar was reportedly summoned to a midnight “court” held by fellow soldiers wearing masks, who accused him of lacking discipline.
Amir said he ordered the proceeding stopped when he discovered Shahar’s humiliation and put the soldier on guard duty. Minutes later, Shahar shot himself.
Amir said he assumed responsibility.
Official IDF statistics say an average of 27 soldiers have committed suicide in each of the last seven years.
The highest year was 1984, when 39 soldiers killed themselves.
The number of suicides has hovered around 30 in the last two years. There have been 24 soldier suicides since April.