Israeli man indicted for impersonating a soldier and stealing weapons after joining fight against Hamas

An Israeli man who never served in the military was charged with impersonating a soldier and stealing weapons after sneaking into an army unit and joining the fighting against Hamas.

According to an indictment filed Sunday, Roi Yifrach, 35, took advantage of the chaotic situation in the aftermath of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack to join combat operations and steal large amounts of military gear, including weapons, munitions, and sensitive communications equipment.

Israeli media said he spent time fighting in Gaza and even appeared in a photo next to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during one of his visits to soldiers in the field.

Yifrach went to southern Israel on Oct. 7 and presented himself alternately as a combat soldier from elite anti-terrorism units, a bomb dispersal expert, and a member of the Shin Bet internal security service, the indictment said.

Police arrested Yifrach on Dec. 17 and found large amounts of weapons, grenades, magazines, walkie-talkies, a drone, uniforms, and other military equipment in his possession.

Eitan Sabag, Yifrach’s lawyer, told Israel’s Channel 12 TV that Yifrach went down to the south to help as a paramedic with a first responder organization, and fought bravely to defend Israel for more than two months. “He was helping people and helping rescue people, all under fire, while also fighting against terrorists,” Sabag said.

APTOPIX Israel Palestinians
Israeli soldiers stand on top of a tank in a staging area at the Israeli-Gaza border in southern Israel, Monday, Jan. 1, 2024. 

Leo Correa / AP

Police also detained four other people, including a police officer, in connection with the weapons theft.

Israel says it’s pulling some troops out of Gaza

Meanwhile, Israel’s army said several thousand troops would be taken out of Gaza in the coming weeks, though it has not said publicly whether the withdrawal reflects a new phase of the war. The move is in line with the plans that Israeli leaders have outlined for a low-intensity campaign, expected to last for much of the year, that focuses on remaining Hamas strongholds.

Still, fierce fighting was ongoing Tuesday in central and southern Gaza. Most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have fled to the southern portion of the cramped enclave, with more than 85% of the population driven from their homes.

About 1,200 people were killed after Hamas raided southern Israel on Oct. 7, with around 240 people taken hostage.

More than 21,900 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and children, have been killed since the start of the war, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza, which doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants among the dead.

Netanyahu said Saturday that Israel’s war on Hamas in Gaza will continue for “many more months.” 

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