Col. Nimrod Aloni, former commander of the Samaria Regional Brigade, completed his term of office on a sad note on Thursday when he took responsibility for the deaths of five members of the Fogel family, who were murdered in their Itamar home in a horrific attack by two Palestinian terrorists in March 2011.
"I failed in Itamar, and because of my failure, the Fogel family was brutally murdered. There are no words to describe the grief and frustration I felt on that Friday night," Aloni said at the brigade's changing of the guard ceremony, where Aloni transferred the command over to his successor, Col. Yoav Yarom.
Describing the aftermath of the attack, Aloni said "we launched an operation that had never been attempted before, following the attack. We decided to leave no stone unturned in Awarta [a Palestinian village near Itamar]. I could see in the troops' eyes that they did not need to be motivated more than they already were."
Late at night on March 11, 2011, Hakim Awad and his accomplice Amjad Awad broke into the home of the Fogel family in the northern Samaria town and murdered both parents as well as three of their children, in one of the most heinous terrorist acts in recent years. After a short manhunt, the IDF arrested the Awads in the nearby village of Awarta. Both have since been convicted and sentenced to multiple life sentences.
According to Army Radio on May 6, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz decided to demolish the homes of the terrorists.
Brig. Gen. Hagai Mordechai, commander of the Judea and Samaria Division, congratulated Aloni upon his retirement and praised his achievements. "With your professionalism, you defended the Samaria region," he said. "You succeeded in forging an atmosphere of mutual responsibility between civilians and security forces based on trust and deep appreciation. I thank you for your meaningful and valuable term of command."
GOC Central Command Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon congratulated incoming commander Yarom. "You have the experience and professionalism to lead the brigade confidently," Alon said. "The material here is at your disposal, but you must guide it using your own spirit. Lead it successfully and courageously. The soldiers and officers, even your superiors, are with you."
Upon his retirement, Aloni will pursue academic studies in the U.S.
In a similar event held on Thursday at Yad Lashiryon (the Armored Corps Memorial Site and Museum), near Latrun, Maj. Gen. Alon oversaw the transfer of command of the 162nd Armor Division, known as the Steel Formation, from Brig. Gen. Agai Yechezkel to Brig. Gen. Moti Baruch. Yechezkel has served as commander of the division for the past two years.