Dozens of mothers of IDF soldiers, reservists and activists marched some 15 miles on Sunday to the Gaza border, demanding that the IDF change its rules of engagement in the wake of the death of IDF soldier Barel Shmueli.
The “Mother’s March” was organized following testimonies from soldiers in Shmueli’s unit about the strict open-fire regulations that prevented the soldiers from shooting the Gazan rioters who rushed the border barrier, one of whom shot Bareli at point-blank range.
The marchers, who walked nine hours from Ashdod to kibbutz Yad Mordechai on the Gaza border, called on IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi to ease the restrictions placed on IDF soldiers from firing at terrorists.
In an interview with Channel 12, two soldiers who served with Shmueli in the elite Yasam counter-terrorist unit explained that the soldiers were not permitted to shoot without first receiving explicit authorization, even if they faced immediate danger.
“Even if you see someone holding a Molotov cocktail or a grenade…as long as you don’t receive permission from the battalion commander, brigade commander or whoever they designated, you cannot shoot,” a soldier identified as A. stated.
“I personally saw a situation in which a Molotov cocktail was thrown at soldiers in the battalion and burned their legs and they needed to run and roll around in the sand [to extinguish the fire]. There was a sniper from another battalion who said that he saw the incident but didn’t shoot because he didn’t receive authorization,” A. said.
The march, which concluded with a rally in which Barel Shmueli’s mother Nitza spoke, was co-organized by Im Tirtzu, the Choosing Life Forum of Bereaved Families, Torat Lehima, and the Association of Community Rabbis.
Tzofia Nahon, who initiated the march, said: “Mothers and families of soldiers understand that with all the love and motivation in which the best of our youth are sent to the IDF, it’s our obligation to stand guard. Our soldiers are being abandoned in the face of the enemy. Together with the family of Barel, may God avenge his blood, we are demanding of the Chief of Staff: immediately change the open-fire regulations.”
Nahon continued: “IDF soldiers should be able to fire on terrorists without waiting for authorization, and without being subject to the jurists or brigade commanders. The battlefield is cruel and it would be better for a thousand mothers of terrorists to cry than one Israeli mother.”
Im Tirtzu CEO Matan Peleg who also participated in the march, said: “The IDF needs to be attentive to the soldiers, and when soldiers relay that they are being prevented from defending themselves, we need to listen to them.