Report: Soldiers at Ariel Attack Scene ‘Did Not Act Properly’

Family and friends attend the funeral of Rabbi Achiad Ettinger, Hy”d, in Eli, March 18. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Soldiers were poorly prepared for duty at sensitive junctions in Yehuda and Shomron, and they failed to act “in a manner expected of soldiers when faced with an imminent security threat” in the terrorist attack that took place in March in the Ariel area, and IDF report on the incident said Wednesday. The report was the result of an intensive investigation into the attack, which saw two Israelis – IDF soldier Gal Keidan, Hy”d, and Rabbi Ahiad Ettinger, Hy”d, – killed by Arab terrorist Omar Abu-Leila.

“In the wake of this event and other events the IDF has absorbed important lessons regarding preparedness of soldiers and the application of training in army units in Yehudah and Shomron,” the report said. “In this framework the army will take steps to improve the preparedness of soldiers, raising their professional skills and their mental abilities, enabling them to better cope with their mission.” In addition, the report said, the army “praises the soldiers and units involved in tracking down the terrorist and eliminating him.”

The attack occurred March 17, when Abu Leila stabbed Keidan and grabbed his weapon at the Ariel Junction. He then hijacked the vehicle Ettinger was driving. Soldiers from across the road shot at the terrorist, and he was injured in the gunfire. Despite that, he was able to continue his rampage, shooting and mortally wounding Rabbi Ettinger – who drew his gun, but was unable to get off a shot before the terrorist shot him – and then stole a vehicle, which he used to drive to the nearby Gitai Avisar Junction, where he shot and badly injured another soldier. Abu-Leila escaped, but was found and eliminated several days after the attack in a village near Ramallah.

The version of the report released to the media did not include details on exactly what went wrong in the attack, but according to the witnesses, there were several soldiers with weapons at the site of the initial attack, when Abu Leila stabbed Keidan and grabbed his weapon. None of them opened fire on the terrorist, and he was able to grab the weapon and hijack Ettinger’s vehicle, which he used to drive to the Gitay Avisar Junction, where he fired at Israelis. The soldiers apparently did not fire at the vehicle as the terrorist fled the scene with the soldier’s weapon.

The report said that the army had taken a number of administrative steps against some of the soldiers involved. Several officers were officially criticized, and one officer was released from service. In addition, “several soldiers who were involved in the incident and who did not act as expected in a war scenario” were demoted. With that, the report praised one soldier – the unit commander on duty, who was the only soldier who opened fire on the terrorist, it said.