Senior Israeli Army Commander Censured Over Unauthorized Tour of Hezbollah Tunnel Into Lebanon

Brig. Gen Rafi Milo led officers several kilometers into Lebanese territory earlier this year, without permission and without taking proper precautions

Brig. Gen. Rafi Milo in August 2019.
Gil Eliahu

Brig. Gen. Rafi Milo, the commander of Israel’s 91st Galilee Division, entered a Hezbollah tunnel without authorization and crossed into Lebanese territory, together with a few other commanders. Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi reprimanded Milo and delayed by one year the general’s possibility of promotion.

The story was first reported Friday morning by Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.

In March, around two months after the Israeli operation to reveal them was made public, Milo led a group of officers through the largest of the tunnels Hezbollah dug from Lebanon into Israel. Late one night, they followed the tunnel to the Lebanese village of Ramiyyeh, without ruling out booby traps or the possibility of a Hezbollah ambush before setting out. No one was hurt in the incident.

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Milo did not report his plans to his direct commander, Maj. Gen. Amir Baram, briefing him only after the fact. Milo reportedly admitted during the investigation of the incident that he had made a mistake, but said that as a combat commander he wanted to see the entire tunnel for himself. Army officials said the abduction of an officer of Milo’s ranks could lead to a significant confrontation with Hezbollah, and even to a war.

Last week Milo ended his assignment as head of the 91st Division, on schedule, and he will take up his new assignment as commander of the command and staff college. Milo previously commanded Shayetet 13, the Israel Navy’s elite commando unit.

In a statement, the military said Milo is an outstanding officer and one of the army’s bravest field officers. “In the course of the process of destroying one of the Hezbollah tunnels discovered during Operation Northern Shield, Milo and additional officers entered the Lebanese portion without advance coordination and after believing there was no danger. The officer admitted his error and took full responsibility for the incident,” the statement said.