Two Israeli Soldiers Killed in Training Accident in Golan Heights

Four others were injured after a M-109 howitzer cannon overturned during army training exercises

The scene of accident in  the Golan Heights, Sept. 27, 2017.
The scene of accident in the Golan Heights, Sept. 27, 2017. Gil Eliahu

An Israel Defense Forces officer and a soldier died and four others were injured in the early hours of Wednesday morning due to a training accident in the Golan Heights.

The accident occurred at 2 A.M. a result of a M-109 howitzer that overturned during an exercise of the army's battalion and company commander course. The army notified the families of the soldiers who were killed but has yet to release their names to the public.

Two of the soldiers, who were seriously wounded, were evacuated to Safed's Ziv Medical Center. Officials there said the soldiers were suffering from internal and orthopedic injuries. Two other soldiers, who suffered minor injuries, were evacuated to Haifa's Rambam Hospital.

Maj. Gen. Yaakov Barak, chief of Ground Forces Command, ordered the ground forces to stop training exercises from Wednesday afternoon until Sunday. In addition, it was decided to halt any nighttime armored vehicle exercises until a preliminary investigation is held into the circumstances of the accident.

The accident occurred after an artillery team, which was in one of two columns transporting artillery cannons, made a U-turn rather than a regular turn, for unknown reasons, such that it faced the column of vehicles it had been travelling in.

According to a preliminary investigation, the driver said on an internal network that he was blinded by the lights of the vehicles in front of him. At that point, the artillery cannon fell over into the ditch on the side of the road, which was between six and eight meters deep, killing the two soldiers. The officer, an artillery commander, and the soldier, a sergeant serving as a team commander, had been standing on the upper part of the cannon, were killed. Soldiers then struggled to rescue the other four team members, who were all injured.

Initial details indicate that the main direction of the investigation into the circumstances of the accident will focus on the possibility that it resulted from human error. Ground Forces Command has appointed a team headed by Brig. Gen. Mordecahi Kahana to investigate the incident. The Northern Command and the Criminal Investigation Division are also investigating the accident, as is standard when soldiers are killed. The appointment of a brigadier general to head a commission of inquiry is somewhat exceptional, related to the severity of the accident's outcome and the relative rise in accidents in recent months, which the army attributes to a rise in the scope of training exercises.