The final document of the operational investigation of Jenin battle (part of "Defensive Wall" operation), where 13 IDF soldiers were killed, was submitted yesterday (Oct. 2nd) to the families of the casualties. The investigation was conducted by the military central region command (pikud merkaz).
On April 9th, as part of Operation defensive wall, IDF forces moved into Jenin area and conquered most of the city and surrounding refugee camps. The forces sought and captured terrorists wanted by Israel and met with fierce resistance from Palestinian armed groups. The incident occurred when a small team of IDF soldiers entered a backyard in the last section of the Jenin refugee camp which housed Palestinian terrorists. The team, led by Captain (rav-seren) Oded Golomb entered the yard, which was walled and secluded from all four directions. When all the soldiers were inside the yard, a suicide bomber exploded near the group. At the same time, several explosive charges exploded and heavy fire was opened from houses surrounding the yard. All the soldiers were hit immediately.
Hearing the explosions and fire, forces from reserve infantry battalion (hativa) no. 5 rushed to the place. A fierce battle developed between the Israeli soldiers and Palestinian fighters. During the battle, The Palestinians threw several explosive charges on the Israeli forces, who responded in gunfire and grandees. The wounded and dead Israeli soldiers who got trapped in the yard were rescued under fire and moved to a collection point outside the refugee camp. They were later evacuated to hospitals in Afula and Haifa.
After several hours of continuous fighting, the Palestinians were forced to retreat and entrench in one house. Special elite infantry units were flown in by helicopters. Armored tractors from the engineering core started demolishing the house until all the Palestinians were killed or surrendered.
The investigationâ€™s concluding document:
The investigation reveals two main reasons to the unfortunate high number of casualties in the battle:
- Incorrect movement of the team leader and his men in the narrow streets of the refugee camp which gave the Palestinians an advantage over the IDF team.
- Incorrect actions of the rescuing forces, who rushed to aid their wounded friends before eliminating the threat from the Palestinian fighters.
The two reasons are attributed to lower commanding ranks (team commander and rescuing forces commanders). However, the document also lists errors and misjudgments in regard to planning the battle, intelligence and high command during the operation. The document also contains hard criticism towards personal behavior of some of the high commanding officers.
For example, The commander of reserve infantry battalion (hativa) no. 5 was not present in Jenin refuge camp during the battle in the backyard until the fighting was over. Similarly, the commander of the Regiment that the killed soldiers belonged to, stayed several streets behind the front line â€œfor better controlâ€ and sent his second in command to oversee the rescue operation.
In the area of intelligence, a gap was discovered between the estimated amount of Palestinian armed men (50) and the actual number (150). The estimation regarding the civilians present in the camp was also discovered as wrong. This estimation caused the Israeli forces to practice unnecessary caution. Most of the civilians left the camp before the Israeli forces entered it.
The aerial photographs of the camp were taken in 1999 and did not match the actual terrain well. The unmanned small planes that were used during the fighting were used mostly by the high command and did not provide real time information to the fighting forces.
With regard to the air force, the document states that starting from the second day of the battle, the high command had all the necessary information to establish the size and ammunition of the fighting force. Despite that, the weapons used â€“ Anti tank missiles and 20mm cannons proved insufficient against the taller buildings in the camp. The document also mentions the request for air bombardment of some of the commanders of the ground fighting forces. The request was refused by the general chief of staff.
On the positive side, the investigation concludes that the fighting forces were well trained and well equipped for the battle. The document further mentions the good control and command over the battle development that was exercised by the battalion command, despite the crowded urban environment and variety of fighting forces: two reserve regiments, infantry regiments from Nahal and Golanni battalions, naval commando unit and other elite infantry units, a Tank regiment and units from engineering.
90% of the terrorist command and control centers and infrastructure in Jenin were destroyed, more than in any other region of defensive wall operation. â€œThe largest and most deadly concentration of terrorist groups was eliminatedâ€ the document states.
The investigation of the battle of Jenin is part of a larger on going investigation regarding the whole defensive wall operation. An additional investigation is being conducted in the high command of the infantry and paratrooper forces and deals with the tactical and strategic aspects of the battle, with aim of improving IDFâ€™s urban warfare technique.
* translated from Ynet.