Israeli Army Chief Orders Reprimand of Senior Officers Over 2019 Death of Recruit

Yaniv Kubovich
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The scene of the 2019 bus accident in the Negev.
The scene of the 2019 bus accident in the Negev.Credit: Magen David Adom Spokesperson's Office
Yaniv Kubovich

Israeli army Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi has decided to reprimand three senior officers and delay the promotion of one of them following the death of an 18-year-old recruit who died while trying out in 2019 for the paratroop brigade.

Ron Eliyahu Oved, a member of Kibbutz Palmahim, was outside an army base in the Negev along with a group of other young people when an out-of-control bus rolled down a slope and hit them. Two members of the group were moderately injured, and three others were lightly hurt.

Following an investigation, it was decided that Brig. Gen. Yaakov Dolf – the commander of the brigade at the time and currently military secretary to Defense Minister Benny Gantz – would be reprimanded and be ineligible for appointment as division commander, as had been planned for this year.

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Dolf was also brigade commander when another soldier drowned in a training accident. That incident was covered up by his commanders, as was revealed by Haaretz. Following that incident, Dolf was also reprimanded for negligence.

Kochavi wrote at the time that “in this case, the whole chain of command did not act with the expected reverence for life in the planning and execution stages of the training exercise.”

Ron OvedCredit: Courtesy of the family

Col. Eliav Elbaz, who commanded the Negev training base at the time of Oved’s death, will be reprimanded and his promotion delayed by a year. Brig.

Gen. Yaron Finkelman, the division commander at the time of the accident, who is now chief of operations at the General Staff’s operations branch, will be summoned to a hearing. Brig. Gen. Nimrod Aloni, who at the time of the accident was acting infantry and paratroop commander and is now the commander of the Gaza Division, will also be reprimanded.

In February, Kochavi ordered the convening of a committee of inquiry headed by Brig. Gen. Ilan Sabag to investigate the incident.

The committee found that an earlier lower-level inquiry into the accident in 2019 by the investigative branch of the military police was “flawed, not presenting all the gaps in information.” The second inquiry also found that the civilian bus was the direct cause of the accident and concluded that there was no connection between mishaps and mistakes that it found in the tryout process for recruits into the paratroop brigade and Oved's death.

According to an IDF statement, the committee of inquiry found flaws in "the thoroughness and precision" with which the orders were read and carried out, which led to errors in how the first day of the tryout process was conducted. After receiving the findings, Kochavi concluded the failures in management were not malicious or deliberate, but added that “commanders and headquarters staff are expected to demonstrate precision and professionalism at the preparation stage.”

Israeli army Chief of Staff Aviv KochaviCredit: Moti Milrod

Kochavi also ordered that the tryout process of army recruits prior to their induction be reexamined and changed. As in the case of the drowning accident, the committee found that insufficient attention was given to written orders.

After the accident in which Oved was killed, the bus driver, Ibrahim Abu Kef, was arrested on suspicion of negligent homicide. The investigation showed that the empty bus rolled down a hill towards the tents where the young people were waiting. Witnesses told police that the bus came to a halt after one of the young people jumped into the open door of the bus and applied the brakes.

An article in Haaretz in January by Uri Misgav revealed a series of mishaps that preceded the accident. The army spokesman said in response to that story that “the incident is being thoroughly and comprehensively investigated by the army. Following this regrettable incident, several lessons have been drawn, some of them already implemented on the ground. The incident is being studied by the army.”

Following public criticism and demands from Oved's family, Kochavi ordered the investigation headed by Brig. Gen. Sabag.

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