Labor chief sees vindication on army mishap probe

JERUSALEM — Israel's state comptroller has decided not to investigate claims about the behavior of Labor Party leader Ehud Barak during a training accident while he headed the Israel Defense Force.

Barak, the former IDF chief of staff and one of Israel's most decorated officers, welcomed the decision, saying it vindicated his name.

Justice Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, who in a parliamentary debate several weeks ago cited the allegations that Barak had left wounded soldiers in the field, said he would order a state commission of inquiry into the matter.

During the training accident, five members of the IDF General Staff's elite commando unit were killed and six others wounded when a live missile erroneously fired. Barak was among the senior officers who were observing the drill.

Two and a half years after the incident, two soldiers who were wounded in the accident and bereaved parents raised allegations about Barak's behavior at the time.

They maintained that Barak did not help treat the wounded, did not answer pleas for help and left the site in his helicopter before the evacuation of the wounded was completed.

In a statement before the Knesset comptroller committee, state comptroller Miriam Ben Porat noted the time it took for the allegations to surface, as well as the fact that immediately following the incident witnesses had praised the medical treatment and evacuation of the wounded.

Meanwhile, a group of former army generals and colonels has asked Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai to release army documents regarding Barak's actions during the mishap in order to settle the matter, the Jerusalem Post reported last week.