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IDF brass apologizes for drill simulating kidnapping of Arabs

The scenario in question should not have been drilled and was an error," said IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi.

IDF Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox speaks during his swearing-in ceremony at Central Command headquarters in Jerusalem, Aug. 11, 2021. Photo by Flash90.
IDF Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox speaks during his swearing-in ceremony at Central Command headquarters in Jerusalem, Aug. 11, 2021. Photo by Flash90.

The Israel Defense Forces’ top brass issued an apology on Tuesday for a military training exercise that included a scenario simulating the kidnapping of Palestinian Arabs by Jewish residents of Samaria.

“The scenario in question should not have been drilled and was an error,” IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi acknowledged during a visit to troops fighting Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

“In Judea and Samaria, forces face brutal terrorism in a complex environment. The exercise carried out yesterday was designed to prepare the forces to deal with a wide variety of scenarios, with the aim of improving their readiness,” he explained.

“We are sorry to anyone who was hurt by this,” Halevi added, vowing to “investigate and learn.” He stressed that soldiers under the IDF’s Central Command, led by Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox, “work around the clock while risking their lives for the security of the residents.”

The apology came shortly after reservists who participated in the drill published a letter accusing the IDF of using them in a “cynical and despicable” way and demanding that the “person responsible for this in Central Command” be removed from his post.

Earlier on Tuesday, Judea and Samaria leaders issued a statement calling for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to “discharge the person who wrote the exercise that simulates the kidnapping of a Palestinian by an Israeli.”

Netanyahu subsequently ordered the IDF to probe the matter. “This fictitious scenario is disconnected from reality, inappropriate and does injustice to an entire and precious community,” said the premier.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said that the military officials who ordered the drill portraying “the settlers as the enemy and the Palestinians as the victim suffer from a severe moral blindness.”

In an interview with Army Radio, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich claimed the exercise evoked memories of antisemitic blood libels.

“There has never been a case of a settler abducting an Arab child. It’s a bit reminiscent of the blood libels that alleged that Christian children were taken and slaughtered to make matzah. There has never been a case of abduction like that,” Smotrich charged.

“We appreciate the clear and important statement of the chief of staff,” responded Israel Ganz, head of the Binyamin Regional Council, which administers some 50 communities in Judea and Samaria. He noted that “Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox also joined the apology.

“To paint the settlers as an aggressive force that the IDF must prepare against as part of its preparedness for war is a delusional act that harmed the image of the settlement and the country,” Ganz stated.

In a conversation with council leaders and local officials on Tuesday, Fox apologized to “anyone who was harmed,” Israel Hayom reported.

“Our mission is to protect the residents, and that is what we are preoccupied with. We made a mistake; we will investigate, learn, draw lessons and do better soon,” the general reportedly said.

Since being appointed to his position in 2021, Fox has regularly been criticized by right-wing activists and politicians.

In July, Israel Hayom claimed that Fox had been unilaterally undercutting government policy by cutting down the number of forces allocated to the enforcement of Palestinian construction violations.

In the wake of Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks, activists formed a protest group in response to Fox’s decision to green-light Palestinian olive harvesting close to Israeli communities in the area, even after several Palestinians were caught observing the communities’ security measures.

In addition, Fox has repeatedly refused government and public appeals to restore checkpoints and roadblocks near Palestinian terror hotspots in the Jordan Valley and northern Samaria, critics have charged.

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