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IDF general penalized for taking troops on unauthorized tour of Hezbollah tunnel | The Times of Israel

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IDF general penalized for taking troops on unauthorized tour of Hezbollah tunnel

Brig. Gen. Rafi Milo admits to ‘error in judgement,’ will be denied a promotion for 3 years after leading midnight excursion inside Lebanese territory

By TOI staff 16 August 2019, 10:45 am 0 Edit
Brigadier-General Rafi Milo, commander of the 91st Galilee Division (right), awards a citation to Major Y of the Engineering Corps for his part in Operation Northern Shield. (IDF)

An Israel Defense Forces general was reprimanded and his promotion will be delayed after a news report revealed that he took soldiers on an unauthorized tour through one of the Hezbollah tunnels discovered by Israel along its border with Lebanon.

IDF top brass censured Brig. Gen. Rafi Milo, commander of the 91st Galilee Division, saying he needlessly endangered the lives of his subordinates and risked sparking an international incident along the tense northern border.

Earlier this week, the Ynet news site reported that Milo had taken a group of soldiers on a midnight excursion inside the largest tunnel uncovered by Israel during Operation Northern Shield earlier this year.

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Milo and his soldiers followed the tunnel all the way to its origin, several kilometers inside Lebanese territory. The report said that Milo did not have permission from his superiors to tour the tunnel, and did not tell anyone in the army they were going.

After the story broke, Milo was summoned for a dressing down by IDF chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi and the head of the IDF Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Amir Baram.

A picture taken on June 3, 2019, during a guided tour with the IDF shows soldiers walking near the entrance to a tunnel at the Israeli side of the border with Lebanon. (Jack Guez/AFP)

According to Ynet, Milo took full responsibility for the incident, but defended his decision to check out the tunnel.

“I made an error in judgement,” he reportedly told Kochavi and Baram. “But I’m a combat commander, and there’s no way that I wasn’t going in to see the entire tunnel.”

A senior IDF official told Ynet on Thursday that Kochavi was “enraged” by Milo’s field trip, as it was not only an “extremely irresponsible thing to do” but also a clear violation of military security protocols.

Kochavi favored a harsher punishment, but Baram intervened on Milo’s behalf and convinced the IDF chief to go easy on the brigadier general due to his outstanding military record. Milo will be denied his expected promotion to the rank of major general until 2022.

Maj. Gen. Amir Baram, commander of the army’s Northern Corps and head of the IDF military colleges, in an undated photograph. (Israel Defense Forces)

“In the end, the chief of staff was satisfied with giving [Milo] a slap on the wrist, and nothing more,” the IDF said.

Milo has served as commander of the elite Shayetet 13 naval commando unit, the Golani Brigade’s reconnaissance units, and the Faran Brigade along the Egyptian border.

He was appointed Galilee Division Commander in 2017, where he oversaw Operation Northern Shield, in which the army uncovered at least six cross-border attack tunnels into dug by Hezbollah from southern Lebanon into Israel.

According to the IDF, Hezbollah planned to use the tunnels to kidnap or kill civilians or soldiers, and to seize a slice of Israeli territory in the event of any hostilities.

A screenshot from a video released by the Israel Defense Forces on December 19, 2018, shows the route of a cross-border attack tunnel it says was dug the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah. (Israel Defense Forces)

Last month, several Hezbollah commanders told the Daily Beast that the Iran-backed terrorist group was setting up for war on both Lebanon’s and Syria’s border with Israel, and their fighters were better prepared to confront Israel than in 2006, after sending thousands to fight alongside the troops of President Bashar Assad in Syria.

In June, Baram threatened overt and covert action against Hezbollah and Lebanon in response to its efforts to build up terrorist infrastructure along the border. In a future war against the terror group, Baram warned that Lebanon was likely to “pay a heavy price” for allowing Hezbollah to take root there.

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