The past year saw the lowest number of casualties since the founding of the Israel Defense Forces, with a total of 27 soldiers losing their lives in 2019.According to the military, the number of IDF casualties has continued to decrease over the last decade, with 2019 having just a little more than half the amount of the previous year, which saw 43 soldiers lose their lives. “The number of fallen soldiers keeps decreasing,” said Brig.-Gen. Michel Yanko, chief of staff of the IDF Manpower Directorate. Nevertheless, “it’s not enough. Between the IDF and its soldiers there's a unique relationship based on commitment, every fallen soldier is a person with a family. Even though we had a positive year, we're committed to learning additional lessons in order to decrease the numbers even more. Every fatality is one too many."Among the casualties were two during combat operations: Sgt. Gal Keidan was killed in a stabbing attack outside Ariel, and Sgt. Zachary Baumel's remains were returned to Israel, so is counted in last years casualties, even though he went missing in the battle for Sultan Yacoub in 1982. One soldier, Dvir Sorek, who was in the IDF Hesder program, was killed in “hostile terrorist activity” outside the settlement of Migdal Oz.The leading cause of fatalities in 2019 was suicide, with 12 soldiers taking their own lives, including two lone soldiers.Micha Levitt was the only female lone soldier to take her life in 2019. She moved to Israel in June 2017 and settled at Kibbutz Kinneret where she took ulpan classes before joining the IDF through the Garin Tzabar program and then drafting into the mixed Caracal combat battalion. She had just moved to an apartment with other lone soldiers in Hadera and was going through the army’s team leader training course (Course Makim) when she took her life.Soldiers who commit suicide are officially defined as “suspected suicides” until the Military Police have finished investigating their cases. While 2019 saw an increase in suicides from the previous year's nine suicides, the number in the military has been decreasing from its peak in 2005 when 36 soldiers took their lives.
The general downward trend in suicide in the IDF has been credited to restricted access to weapons on the one hand, and the army’s efforts in suicide prevention on the other. The army launched an extensive plan to prevent suicide in 2006, with numerous programs designed to better train commanders to identify soldiers who may have suicidal thoughts, and streamlining army procedures to ensure all relevant information is received by mental health officers as soldiers move between units.
Of the 27 casualties in 2019, five died in car accidents, two died from illness, two in training accidents and three others are being investigated by the military, including one who was electrocuted after falling into a pool. The two training fatalities were Sgt. Evyatar Yosefi, 20, who drowned during a navigation exercise last January, and Ron Oved, who was hit by a bus while trying out for a combat unit.
Another 35 soldiers were seriously injured over the past year, including 13 in traffic accidents, 14 from medical reasons, and two in training accidents.
In comparison, of the 43 IDF soldiers who died in 2018, eight are suspected of committing suicide, two died in training accidents, eight were killed in combat, 10 died from medical reasons and 14 in traffic accidents. Another 41 soldiers were severely injured.
Two years earlier, of the 41 soldiers who died in 2016, 15 soldiers are suspected of committing suicide, nine were killed in military accidents, seven in civilian traffic accidents, six died due to medical reasons, and another four soldiers were killed in action. In addition, 43 soldiers were severely injured over the course of the year.