TEL AVIV (Jul. 11)
Two Israel Defense Force reservists were barred from further combat duty and their commanding officer was severely reprimanded following an investigation into the successful guerrilla raid on an IDF outpost near the Syrian border July 3.
Staff Sgt. Ehud Ben-Mordechai, a 26-year-old reserve soldier, was killed in an attack at dawn by terrorists who apparently passed through Syrian lines and escaped the same way.
The Damascus-based Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed credit for the attack.
The outpost on the slopes of Mount Hermon, where Ben-Mordechai was on guard duty when he was killed, had been considered one of the safest IDF positions. There had been no attacks from the nearby Syrian positions for 16 years.
Immediately after the incident, the troops guarding the outpost were absolved of guilt. The IDF chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Ehud Barak, and the commander of the northern region, Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Mordechai, agreed that the men performed properly.
But a subsequent investigation determined that their reaction to enemy fire had been much too slow and their pursuit of the attackers ineffective.
The two reservists held responsible were reassigned to non-combat duties.
The officer in command of the outpost was formally rebuked by his commander for failing to “do what was expected of him in an incident of this kind.”
Military sources said the episode cast doubt over the effectiveness of reserve soldiers. In recent months, reservists have failed to prevent terrorist infiltrators from Jordan from penetrating IDF outposts, and several IDF casualties have resulted.
Some military observers say the decline of combat readiness may be due to the IDF’s preoccupation with the intifada over the last three years, stressing police methods at the expense of military training.