Israeli Army Officers to Be Charged in Soldier’s Drowning Death During Exercise

The five officers will be charged with negligent homicide, negligence and disobeying military regulations, unless the prosecution drops charges

Paratroopers Brigade soldiers commemorate Evyatar Yosefi during a ceremony marking the end of their advanced training, July 14, 2019.

The military prosecution has tentatively decided to charge five officers from the Paratroopers Brigade over the death of a soldier during a navigation exercise in March.

The officers, who have already been dismissed from their positions, will be charged with negligent homicide, negligence and disobeying military regulations, unless the prosecution decides to drop the charges following a pre-indictment hearing.

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Prosecutors have informed the family of Evyatar Yosefi of the decision. Yosefi drowned while trying to cross the Hilazon stream as part of the exercise, which was not called off even after the soldiers warned that due to stormy weather, it was swollen and dangerous.

The five officers are the former commander of the brigade’s reconnaissance unit, Lt. Col. Yishai Rozilio, the commander of the navigation course, the company commander and two lieutenants.

“The investigations found that the planning and preparation of the navigation prima facie violated binding safety regulations, and insufficient weight was given to the expected weather during the navigation and its potential implications for the soldiers’ safety,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement announcing the decision. “The investigation also found that during the navigation, there were warning lights that should have led to a reassessment of the situation and the issuance of orders that would protect the soldiers’ safety.”

The military defense attorneys said in a statement that criminal charges against the officers were “a moral mistake that does not accord with the officers’ conduct and their genuine concern for their soldiers’ welfare. Moreover, this step will send a harsh message to the rest of the command ranks, one that may severely undermine their willingness to hold complicated exercises, and thus the army’s preparedness for war.”

The defense attorneys added that they were confident the military prosecution would reverse its decision during the pre-indictment hearing.