Army Dismisses Officer for Fleeing Deadly Jerusalem Attack While Armed

Combat soldier failed to confront the Palestinian assailant after he opened fired on commuters at a light rail station, killing a 60-year-old woman and, later, a police officer.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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The car of a woman killed in a shooting attack in Jerusalem, October 10, 2016.
The car of a woman killed in a shooting attack in Jerusalem, October 10, 2016.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

A combat officer has been dismissed from the Israeli army after it was discovered he fled the scene of a shooting attack in Jerusalem in October, despite being armed.

This is thought to be the first time since the recent terror wave erupted in October 2015 that the Israel Defense Forces has dismissed a soldier who chose not to confront an assailant, and instead ran from the scene of the attack.

Brig. Gen. Amir Abulafia, the commander of the 162nd Division, was behind the decision.

The assailant in the attack, Masabah Abu Sabih, opened fire on commuters at the Ammunition Hill light rail station on October 9. Levana Malihi, 60, of Jerusalem was killed in the shooting. The attacker fled the scene and continued to target people elsewhere: he shot at another woman who was in her car, and at policemen who followed him to Sheikh Jarrah. During this exchange, police officer Yossi Kirma was shot and fatally wounded.

After Abu Sabih had fled from Ammunition Hill, several civilians and unarmed soldiers had chased after him. The investigation into the attack revealed that a soldier had fled the scene despite being armed, and failed to offer assistance or help in the chase. It was later revealed that the soldier was a serving officer in the 401st Brigade – an armored battalion in the 162nd Division.

When the army discovered that the officer had not attempted to engage with the attacker, it was decided to remove him from his position.

This is not the first time IDF soldiers have fled from the scene of an attack. In a shooting attack at the Central Bus Station in Be’er Sheva in October 2015, soldiers were documented fleeing from the scene.

Golani Brigade soldier Omri Levy was killed in the attack, as was Eritrean asylum seeker Haftom Zarhum, who was shot and beaten to death after mistakenly being taken for the shooter.

Regarding the dismissal, IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz wrote on Facebook: “The present instructions to soldiers everywhere are to attempt to make contact and remove the threat, even when they are in a civilian location. That is the order, that is the spirit of the IDF – that is our job as defenders of the nation.”

The IDF spokesman added, “After the [Ammunition Hill] incident, there was an investigation into the conduct of an officer from the 401st Brigade. The investigation indicated that the officer did not try to make contact and acted contrary to what is expected of him in an incident of this kind, and therefore the division commander decided to remove him from his position.”

Following the incident in Jerusalem, a document was sent out in the name of division commander Abulafia. In it, it was stated that soldiers in the division should be briefed on the main points of the incident, and that there should be a discussion of incidents in which the involvement of a combat soldier will be required during attacks – even when they are not in a military environment, but in civilian locations.

Abulafia added he sees this as an exceptional incident that doesn’t reflect the expected operational and ethical behavior of soldiers.