A Third of Deaths in the Israeli Army in 2020 Were by Suicide

Two of the nine soldiers who took their own lives had reached out for help, while the leading cause of IDF deaths last year was accidents

Yaniv Kubovich
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Graves in the Kiryat Shaul military ceremony in Tel Aviv seen in April, 2020.
Graves in the Kiryat Shaul military ceremony in Tel Aviv seen in April, 2020. Credit: Moti Milrod
Yaniv Kubovich

About a third of the Israeli soldiers who died in 2020 committed suicide, data from the Israel Defense Forces’ Manpower Directorate shows. Out of 28 soldiers who died during their, compulsory, career or reserve service last year, nine took their own lives.

The number of soldiers who died in 2020 was one higher than the number for the year before. Thirteen died last year in training, work, or traffic accidents; five died of illness and other medical causes; and one soldier, Amit Ben Yigal, was killed during operational duty in the northern West Bank. Of the nine soldiers who committed suicide, two had reached out to military authorities for help.

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In addition, 40 soldiers were seriously injured in accidents, violent attacks or as the result of illness.

The IDF says it has been acting in recent years to reduce the number of suicides through a variety of methods and with the help of dedicated programs, and added that the number of IDF suicides is considered low in comparison to those in other militaries.

The number of suicides in the IDF has dropped significantly over the past decade, from 28 in 2010 to 12 in 2019, and nine in 2020.

“We speak with commanders regularly about the issue of preventing soldier suicides,” said Maj. Gen. Moti Almoz, the head of the Manpower Directorate. “We are obligated to equip them with the skills to locate cases of distress that could lead a soldier to harm himself.” He added, “We need to pay attention and put a great emphasis on the issue of suicide in 2021, because there could be indirect consequences of the coronavirus crisis.”

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