An Israeli tank during an exercise near the northern border on February 22, 2018..
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)
An IDF soldier was killed and three others injured when their tank rolled down a ravine on the Egyptian border at around 1 a.m. on Saturday morning.
The incident occurred as troops were called to a smuggling attempt near the Nitzana border crossing with Sinai, where smugglers were trying to sabotage Israel’s security infrastructure.
The tank, which was part of a force from the 74th Armored “Sa’ar” Battalion of the 188th Armored “Barak” Brigade operating under the command of the Caracal Infantry Battalion, was taking part in the operation to stop the suspects from using the smuggling as cover to carry out a terrorist attack.
An initial investigation found that the Merkava Mark III tank had deviated from its planned path while moving toward the scene when it rolled some three meters down a ravine at the Nitzana Stream.
It is not clear what caused the tank to leave its route.
The fall then caused a shell inside the tank to catch fire, setting off the fire control system. The soldiers inside the tank, who were not hurt from the crash, were injured from breathing in the fumes caused by the blaze and by fire suppression materials.
The injured soldiers were taken to Soroka- University Medical Center in Beersheba, with conflicting reports on their status. While an IDF statement said that they were in moderate to light condition, Soroka reported that one was in serious condition.
The Military Police, Southern Command and 188th Brigade have all opened investigations into the incident.
“The IDF shares in the grief of the killed soldier’s family and will continue accompanying the families of the injured,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said.
This incident is the latest in a number of accidents in the past few months and brought the army’s death toll since last year’s Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars to 72. This year’s Remembrance Day will be marked on Wednesday.
In September, a platoon commander and his sergeant died when their self-propelled artillery gun overturned and crushed them on the Golan Heights. Four additional soldiers were wounded and evacuated to the hospital.
Following the deaths and the relatively large number of accidents in recent years, some of them stemming from an increase in training, the IDF chief of staff temporarily suspended all Ground Forces training exercises.