Elite IDF soldier charged in accidental killing of comrade

The IDF has charged an elite Duvdevan soldier with manslaughter in the death of Staff Sgt. Shachar Strug, who was killed on March 20.

On Monday, the Judge Advocate General’s Office filed an indictment against First Sgt. N. for manslaughter in Strug’s death. A Jaffa military court judge ruled Sgt. N’s remand would be extended by a week, following a request by the prosecution, which sought to extend his detention until the end of proceedings.

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20-year-old Strug from Givatayim was seriously injured after he was shot by Sgt. N’s pistol, which was fired without a safety plug, as the two were waiting for a training exercise on an IDF base in the center of the country. He was evacuated to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus where doctors pronounced his death.

Maj. Merav Hershkowitz Yitzhaki, Capt. (res.) Avi Chaimi and Capt. Eliasaf Melamed, who represent Sgt. N on behalf of the Military Advocate General, urged the prosecution to lower the charge from manslaughter to negligence. “We received with great disappointment the decision of the Military Advocate General’s Office to choose the manslaughter charge. The defense team believes the investigation material, as well as the consistent words of the soldier, clearly indicate the appropriate charge in the circumstances of this tragic case is death by negligence,” they said.

“In these circumstances, there will be no choice but to bring the case to the Military Court for a decision, and to lay out the full picture and all the defense arguments before the judges. We’re convinced that after the court examines the evidence and hears the soldier’s testimony, it will find that it adopts the defense’s position,” they added.

The investigation into his death found three other similar incidents of illegal use of firearms by other soldiers in the elite Duvdevan unit. None of the other cases led to fatalities.

The investigation also determined there was insufficient command and control in order to prevent the use of weapons in contravention of IDF orders and procedures, despite the awareness of such a possibility, after the three previous incidents which occurred in the unit.

According to the IDF: “Playing with weapons is something that is not accepted in the army,” and therefore several recommendations have been made by Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, including more stringent controls on who can carry a weapon and when.

In light of the severity of the incident and the findings of the commission of inquiry, Eisenkot decided on a number of command steps, including the cancellation of the appointment of the commander of Duvdevan – an officer with the rank of lieutenant colonel – to command a brigade, a position filled by a full colonel, and delaying the officer‘s promotion to colonel for two years.

The platoon commander, with the rank of lieutenant, also received a severe reprimand and will also not be promoted for two years. In addition, the team commander, who held the rank of lieutenant, was relieved of duty and the team sergeant was dismissed by the commander of the commando unit.