In Rare Move, Israeli Army Denies Rumors IDF Chief Killed in Helicopter Crash

In unusual statement, Israeli army says no 'additional commanders' hurt in Apache helicopter crash that killed one

FILE PHOTO: Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot
IDF Spokesperson Unit

After an Israeli army Apache helicopter crashed late Monday, rumors began to spread on social media that a "senior official" was killed in the incident. According to one rumor that was making the rounds on Israel's WhatsApp message service, it was none other than the Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot.

In an unusual move, the IDF spokesperson issued a statement clarifying that the claims were false and "that any rumors regarding the death or injury of additional commanders in the incident are not accurate."

In Monday's crash, which took place at southern Israel's Ramon Airforce Base, Maj. David Zohar, a reserve pilot, was killed and a younger officer was critically wounded. In the initial hours, claims that Eisenkot was on the helicopter started to spread, some were even appended with an obituary.

The last time the army moved to dispel rumors of soldiers or commanders being killed was in the 2014 Gaza war, when rumors spread on WhatsApp that a number of soldiers from the Golani Brigade had died. The incident even prompted the IDF to launch a campaign urging soldiers not to spread such claims on social media.

The pilots in Monday's crash were on their way back to the base after a training flight when a technical malfunction was reported around 9 P.M. According to the Israeli army's spokesman, the helicopter crashed near the base's landing pad.

The army's Apache helicopters were only re-commisioned in July, after the discovery of a large crack in the back rotor blade of one of the helicopters in June saw the army's two Apache squadrons grounded and subject to inspection.