Israeli Army Dismisses Battalion Commander, 5 Officers Over Training Ground Death

Capt. Yishai Rosales killed on January 5 when a mortar round fell 1.5 kilometers from planned target at exercise in the Negev.

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The site of the accident at the Tze'elim training base in the Negev.
The site of the accident at the Tze'elim training base in the Negev.Credit: Eliahu Hirschkowitz
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

The commander of an Israel Defense Forces battalion and five other officers have been dismissed following the death of a soldier during a training exercise in southern Israel earlier this month.

Capt. Yishai Rosales, 23, was killed and another soldier lightly wounded by shrapnel when a mortar round was fired in the wrong direction at the Tze’elim training base in the Negev, during a course for company and battalion commanders on January 5.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot made the decision to dismiss Lt. Col. Tal David of the 75th Armored Battalion, along with the major who served as deputy battalion commander. Eisenkot also dismissed a deputy company commander from the battalion who served as safety officer for the mortar position during the training exercise.

A military investigation into the incident found that the safety officer didn’t carry out his duties properly. The commander of the mortar team and two armored corps soldiers who fired the mortar round were also dismissed.

The investigation found that the mortar round fell 1.5 kilometers (0.9 miles) from the planned target, and instead hit an observation post where Rosales was housed. Rosales wasn’t even involved in the 75th Armored Battalion’s exercise, but was serving as a safety supervisor for a different exercise being conducted in the urban warfare training center on the base. Rosales, from the religious moshav of Beit Meir in central Israel, was a platoon commander in the ultra-Orthodox 97th Netzah Yehuda Battalion, and was posthumously promoted to the rank of captain.

An armored corps officer with the rank of colonel had been appointed to lead the team investigating the circumstances of the incident. In addition, the Military Police Corps opened their own investigation, as well as the normal operational inquiry conducted in such cases.

IDF chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot. Credit: Ofer Vaknin

The investigative team found that the accident was caused by the mortar team’s poor professional level. After the investigators presented their conclusions, Eisenkot decided that the battalion’s commanders were also guilty of negligence.

It was discovered during the probe that preparations for the exercise were poor, including the use of the safety officer and his supervisor.

Eisenkot also ordered Maj. Gen. Guy Tzur, the chief of Ground Forces Command, to examine the way mortar teams are trained in both the armored corps and infantry brigades.

The commander of the armored corps training center in Tze’elim, Col. Shimon Edri, was also censored. The incident will be noted in the personal file of Edri, who was the overall commander responsible for the exercise. In addition, the company commander of the soldiers involved received a reprimand from his division commander.

Eisenkot’s decisions apply to the operational, personnel and command aspects of the incident, a senior IDF officer said yesterday. These decisions aren’t linked to the Military Police Corps’ investigation into the affair, and any criminal or other disciplinary proceedings will be handled separately.

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