Runaway Tank Rolls Down Hill in Southern Israel After Crew Falls Asleep

Tank commander had gone to the bathroom and when he returned he saw that his Merkava 4 tank was missing, only to be located on the other side of a main highway

File photo: IDF tank near the Gaza border, southern Israel, November 1, 2018.
Ilan Assayag

An Israel Defense Forces tank rolled 600 meters down a hill out of control and crossed a main highway in southern Israel after the crew fell asleep inside the tank.

The incident occurred over the past week, during a tank commanders course near the Armored Corps training base in the far south. A preliminary investigation conducted by the IDF found the crew of combat soldiers had fallen asleep and didn't notice the tank was rolling away.

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The crew commander had gotten out of the tank to go to the bathroom, and when he returned he saw that his Merkava 4 tank was missing. It was located only after a few minutes, on the other side of Route 40.

The IDF spokesman confirmed the details of the incident and said no one was hurt. “This is an unusual safety incident that will be investigated and from which lessons will be learned in order to prevent the recurrence of similar cases in the future,” the army added in a statement.

In April, an Israeli soldier was killed and three others were injured when a shell caught on fire inside a tank along the Egyptian border.

20-year-old Eliyahu Drori apparently died of smoke inhalation from the fire, or from inhaling gas from the tank’s fire-extinguishing system. The three injured soldiers, two of them hospitalized in serious condition, either inhaled the gas or suffered burns.