On Monday, the Israel Defense Forces demoted the head of a tank battalion who left a soldier behind during an operation last week near Ramallah.
Lt. Col. Muli Cohen, commander of the 74 Sa'ar battalion of the tank corps' 188 Brigade, was removed from his post on Monday by GOC Home Front Command Maj. Gen. Yair Golan. Cohen was informed of the demotion during a meeting held on Monday with Golan, who justified the decision on the grounds that Cohen provided false information about the incident in which a soldier was left behind following an operation in the West Bank.
According to residents of Kfar Burdus, the IDF soldier had been left behind after an operation designed to detain stone-throwers.
The thrust of the IDF inquiry into the incident concentrated neither on operational aspects nor the sequence of events in the field; instead, investigators reviewed the way commanders reported on the event.
The IDF spokesman originally told Haaretz that the soldier was "kept in view" throughout the operation, but this statement was later revealed to be inaccurate. The IDF spokesman's response apparently relied on false information provided by the battalion commander, who was reportedly motivated by a desire to downplay the incident and its implications. A review quickly established that these details were inaccurate, and the IDF later acknowledged that contact with the soldier had been lost.
Cohen was suspended on Friday, pending the results of the inquiry. The suspension order was issued by Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz.
Cohen's demotion, on the grounds of false reporting, is designed to deliver a clear message to other field commanders. Cohen is the third commander of a tank battalion to be demoted in recent years. One commander was relieved of his duties in 2008 due to failure to respond forcefully to the penetration of terrorists near Nahal Oz on the Gaza border, and another commander was demoted when his battalion fired in the area of a Palestinian demonstration.
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