Givati Commander Questioned 'Under Caution' About Incidents in His Brigade

Lt. Col. Ofer Winter suspected of covering up improprieties, including a sexual harassment complaint against one of his most senior subordinates.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Ofer Winter, commander of Givati Brigade, where allegations of sexual crimes were investigated.
Ofer Winter, commander of Givati Brigade, where allegations of sexual crimes were investigated.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Givati Brigade commander Col. Ofer Winter was questioned under caution by military police on Thursday regarding suspicions of sexual harassment by one of his battalion commanders and a range of other alleged incidents in the brigade.

The questioning, which lasted for several hours, focused on the suspicion that Winter had attempted to sweep some of the incidents under the carpet and had not fulfilled his duty to report the allegations when they came to his knowledge.

Among the suspicions currently under investigation are sexual harassment by Lt. Col. Liran Hajbi, commander of the Tsabar battalion, sexual harassment of two soldiers by their company commander, improper use of donated funds, attempts to pervert justice by Hajbi and more.

Winter cooperated fully with his questioners and clarified that he had informed his superiors of the information he had about the incidents, rather than keeping them to himself, his attorney said after the questioning.

He added that Winter attached great importance to getting rid of the cloud over the brigade in order to be able to focus on its training.

In addition to being questioned about the incidents of sexual harassment, Winter was also asked what he had done with the information he received and with whom he had consulted.

In response to the questioning of Winter, Chief of Staff Lt, Gen. Bennie Gantz said: "We will give full support to all those involved in order to get to the truth and ensure that justice is done to the degree required."

The IDF spokesman, Lt. Col, Motti Almoz, wrote in a Facebook post that the General Stuff had discussed the investigation during its meeting on Thursday. Gantz reportedly told his generals that IDF officers, and particularly its senior echelons, are required to display "ethical and immaculate behavior."

Many Givati officers have been questioned by the military police during the ongoing investigation. In a face-to-face encounter with the female soldier who claimed that he had tried to kiss her by force, Hajbi denied the allegation. The investigators have also checked the electronic communications between the two.

Hajbi announced on Wednesday that he was taking 10 days leave in order to clear his name.

Also in Hajbi's battalion, two soldiers have complained that their commander sexually molested them – a claim that the brigade allegedly tried to sweep under the carpet. The soldiers pursued their complaint through the entire brigade command echelon, up to and including Winter. But a military police investigation was never opened into the case.

According to a source familiar with the investigation, the brigade command attempted to persuade the soldiers to complain to the military police but they declined to do so. The investigation only began at the beginning of December.

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