Israeli Elite Unit Commander's Promotion Scrapped After Soldier Accidently Killed

The officer will not be promoted to brigade commander after the March death of Staff Sgt. Shachar Strug that has led to manslaughter charges against another soldier

The promotion of the head of the elite Duvdevan unit to brigade commander has been canceled after the killing of a soldier when a comrade’s rifle discharged while the two were playing with their guns.

On Tuesday, the soldier whose gun went off was indicted for manslaughter, not the less serious charge of negligent homicide. The maximum sentence for manslaughter is 20 years in prison.

Staff Sgt. Shachar Strug
IDF Spokesperson's Unit

The decision by the military’s chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot, to block the promotion came after a committee met to investigate the accidental killing in March of Staff Sgt. Shachar Strug, who was 20. The committee submitted its report Monday.

Eisenkot adopted a number of the panel’s recommendations for disciplinary action against Duvdevan commanders, including a severe reprimand of a battalion commander and a two-year freeze on his promotion. On the committee’s recommendation, Strug’s team commander and a sergeant from the team are being dismissed.

The defense in the case had claimed that Strug was killed during a training accident.

The investigators concluded that Strug and another soldier were in their room waiting for training to begin when they began playing with their guns. Strug had a safety mechanism in the barrel of his rifle but the other soldier, who has only been identified as Sgt. N., did not. When the two drew their guns, Sgt. N.’s rifle went off once, the investigators say.

The committee found that the Duvdevan unit has a record of improper handling of firearms. In the past year there have been four incidents of weapons accidentally firing, two during training and two in barracks.

The Duvdevan special forces unit is famous for operations in which members go undercover as Palestinians.

The panel found that commanders have not objected to gunplay by members of the unit. It said rules were needed on which units should be allowed to use guns – approval that should be reexamined annually in combat units.

Sgt. N.’s lawyers said negligent homicide was the more appropriate charge. The arguments in the soldier’s defense will be presented in military court.