IDF Probe: Female Soldier Hid Instead of Fighting During Deadly Egypt Border Incident

Comrades feared soldier from Karakal battalion may have been kidnapped after she failed to show up for count in gunbattle last Friday.

A female combat soldier in the unit that confronted an armed cell on the Israeli-Egyptian border Friday hid behind a bush for nearly an hour and did not open fire on the gunmen, the army's ongoing investigation reportedly shows.

After the incident near Mount Harif, Israel Defense Forces soldiers of the Caracal battalion had to search for their comrade, and for a time feared she had been kidnapped.

Israel Radio reported this morning that at a debriefing in the Sagi District Brigade, the soldier explained that she had been afraid to shoot at the militants, saying: "I had no chance against them." Brigade commander Col. Guy Biton told her that she had not behaved as expected of a combat soldier.

The investigation showed that for several long minutes there was fear that one of the female soldiers had been kidnapped, as she was not present for the count of forces after the incident. When the soldier was finally located, she was reprimanded by battalion officers. This angered a number of the combat troops, who defended her as an excellent soldier who needed support.

One military source confirmed the details of the report, but noted that the operational investigation of the incident was not yet complete. Another military source, however, said that the soldier had not been required to attack, and that no searches had been conducted for her as the media had reported.

Further details from the incident show that at 12:15 P.M. on Friday, the field forces reported that the Artillery Corps troops securing the border fence construction had come under fire, and within minutes a patrol force from the Caracal battalion arrived at the scene.

The force opened fire on the three militants and one of the female fighters who serves as a marksman stormed forward to attack at closer range. The IDF said the incident, during which Cpl. Netanel Yahalomi was killed, ended within 15 minutes with the three armed men dead.

The investigation also revealed that Yahalomi, the artillery man who was killed, was not wearing a helmet during the incident. Military regulations for that area do not require wearing a helmet at all times, rather only during operational activities such as patrols or ambushes. The investigation clarified that Yahalomi managed to fire at the attackers before he was killed.