Investigators: At Least Two Soldiers Fired at Terrorist

YERUSHALAYIM -
Security personel work at the scene of the truck-rammin attack which left four IDF soldiers dead, in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood of Yerushalayim, Sunday. (Sebi Berens/Flash90)

An initial inquiry into Sunday’s terror truck-ramming attack in Armon Hanatziv in Yerushalayim indicates that a number of soldiers opened fire on the terrorist as he rammed through a crowd of IDF soldiers on an educational trip to Yerushalayim. During the event, one of the commanders ordered soldiers to take cover, even as some were shooting at the terrorist. Others ran spontaneously from the scene as they realized what was happening.

The investigation, IDF officials said, puts the lie to claims that soldiers were afraid to open fire on the terrorist because they feared ending up like Elor Azaria, the IDF soldier who was convicted of shooting a terrorist who had already been neutralized. Social media in Israel was boiling over Sunday night with claims that the soldiers had avoided opening fire because they feared being prosecuted for shooting at a terrorist, as Azaria was.

The claims were given credence by E., the field guide who was in charge of the group who opened fire first. Speaking to reporters after the attack, E. said that it was not clear to him why he was the only one to open fire on the terrorist. “I shot him with my personal weapon,” he told reporters. “I emptied my gun, and only then did other soldiers open fire.” E. said that he feared that the verdict in the trial of IDF soldier Elor Azaria may have had an effect on the motivation of soldiers to shoot the terrorist. “I hate to think this way, but I feared that I might go on trial for shooting the terrorist. It took the soldiers here too long to open fire. I don’t understand what the hesitation was all about.”

E.’s comments were reiterated by MK Oren Chazan (Likud). “This latest terror attack is the direct result of the Azaria trial,” he said. “Unfortunately, the terrorists’ fear of the IDF has been damaged as a result of the public debate in Israel, and this is the kind of thing that encourages them to attack us, in the hope that soldiers and security forces will think twice before opening fire.

But IDF officials quoted on Israel Radio Monday said that this was nonsense. There have been dozens of security incidents in which terrorists were shot and killed by soldiers, and none of them have been prosecuted – just the opposite, most have been commended, the officials said. Speaking to reporters after the incident Sunday, IDF spokesperson Moti Almoz said that the Azaria case had nothing to do with Sunday’s attack. If soldiers did not open fire, he said it was likely “due to the fact that everything transpired within seconds, and it takes time to understand that a terror attack is happening. I know of at least two soldiers who opened fire.”

Meanwhile, levayos for the four victims of Sunday’s attack – Lieutenant Yael Yekutiel, Hy”d (20) of Givatayim, Cadet Shir Hajaj, Hy”d (22) of Maaleh Adumim, Cadet Shira Tzur, Hy”d (20) from Haifa, and Cadet Erez Orbach, Hy”d (20) from Alon Shvut – will be held Monday afternoon. Fifteen other soldiers were injured in the attack, and all were treated in Yerushalayim hospitals Sunday. Most were released by Monday morning, but four are still in hospital in serious condition. With that, there has been an improvement in the condition of four of the soldiers still hospitalized, including one who was in critical condition Sunday.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman visited the injured soldiers Monday morning in Yerushalayim.