Israeli Officer Faces Dismissal After Haaretz Investigation Reveals Deadly Foray Into Syria

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Golani troops train in the Golan Heights.
Golani troops train in the Golan Heights. Credit: Gil Eliahu
Yaniv Kubovich

The Golani Brigade officer who entered Syria without permission and ended up killing Syrians is likely to be discharged from the army in the wake of an investigation by Haaretz.

Lt. Guy Eliahu, a squad commander in Golani’s reconnaissance unit, will be summoned by the head of the army’s Northern Command to discuss his continued service in the Israel Defense Forces. During this conversation, Maj. Gen. Amir Baram is widely expected to tell Eliahu that his army career is over.

>> Elite Israeli troops went on a rogue op inside Syria. The result was deadly

WATCH Haaretz Zoom discussion: COVID-19, civil unrest and U.S. Jews - Israel relationship

Aside from the Syria incident, Eliahu’s squad also slashed the tires of Palestinian cars in Nablus, and three of his soldiers were killed in an accident on Highway 6 after he violated safety regulations. Following the incident, Eliahu forged a document to avoid testifying in the trial of the driver who hit the soldiers' convoy.

Senior army officials who read the Haaretz report about the elite troops who went on a rogue operation inside Syria also want to review the way senior officers – commanders of both the reconnaissance battalion and the brigade – dealt with all these incidents. It’s not yet clear how that review will be conducted.

As Haaretz reported, Eliahu’s unit entered Syria without permission, went to a building where Syrians who posed no threat to Israel were present and demanded that they come out. An exchange of gunfire ensued, and two or three Syrians were killed.

“It could easily have ended with soldiers being abducted or with soldiers’ bodies [ending up] in Lebanon or in Tehran,” a source familiar with the incident said.

Golani troops train in the Golan Heights. Credit: Gil Eliahu

Nevertheless, the brigade decided to hush up the story. It didn’t conduct an in-depth inquiry into the soldiers’ unauthorized entry into Syria, nor did it take any measures against those involved.

Both the incident and the whitewash proved to be part of a pattern. Eliahu and his soldiers repeatedly ignored operational regulations and got involved in troubling incidents, yet their superiors, up to and including the brigade commander, kept turning a blind eye.

“He is an officer with no inhibitions,” said a source familiar with Eliahu's squad. “It’s not clear why the commanders ignored his actions – some of which border on criminal offenses – over the years.”

Eliahu’s unit was involved in a fatal accident in February 2018, when a truck driver crashed into a military convoy that had stopped on the side of Highway 6, killing three members of the squad. In March, Haaretz reported that there had been problems with Eliahu’s conduct both before and after the accident.

Even the army’s inquiry into the accident concluded that Eliahu had exceeded his authority and violated safety regulations. Nevertheless, the brigade commander, Col. Shai Kelfer, sent him to a company commanders’ course at the Tactical Command College.

Then, when Eliahu was called to testify at the driver’s trial, he submitted a document ostensibly signed by his commander at the college saying he couldn’t testify because he had to participate in an exercise that day. But no such exercise ever took place, and in fact, Eliahu was on vacation that day.

Kelfer put him on disciplinary trial for forging the document and sentenced him to 21 days in jail, of which seven were suspended. Later, the commander of the military colleges, Maj. Gen. Itai Virov, reduced the sentence to a week for “personal reasons.”

After that accident, Eliahu’s unit was sent to Nablus to conduct nighttime arrests. The next day, Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank received videotapes showing the soldiers vandalizing Palestinian cars.

Lt. Col. Shimon Siso.

The commander of the reconnaissance battalion, Lt. Col. Shimon Siso, ordered an inquiry, and once Eliahu realized the incident had been filmed, he confessed to allowing his soldiers “to let off steam.” They wanted to avenge themselves on Arabs, he said, because the driver of the truck that killed their comrades was a Palestinian from East Jerusalem.

Yet Siso neither punished Eliahu himself nor referred the case to the military prosecution. Some soldiers and officers, furious at the decision, then brought the issue to the attention of the brigade commander at that time, Shlomi Binder. But he, too, decided not to punish Eliahu.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments