IDF releases findings into deadly tank fire

Sgt. Eliyahu Drori was killed after his vehicle burst into flames during an operation on Egyptian border in April.

Sgt. Eliyahu Drori  (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)
Sgt. Eliyahu Drori
The IDF released its findings on an IDF soldier killed during operational duty on the Egyptian border after his tank strayed off course and burst into flames.
Sgt. Eliyahu Drori, 22, from Beit Shemesh, a combat soldier from the 188th “Barak” Armored Brigade, was killed in April when his tank caught fire during a chase with drug smugglers. He was posthumously promoted from the rank of corporal to sergeant and was buried in Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl Military Cemetery.
Three other soldiers were hospitalized at the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, two of them in serious condition, while the third sustained light injuries.
The incident occurred after troops were called to a smuggling attempt near the Nitzana border crossing between Israel and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula at around 1 a.m. where smugglers were trying to sabotage Israel’s security infrastructure.
The tank, operating under the command of the Caracal Battalion, was taking part in the operation to stop the suspects from using the smuggling as cover to carry out a terror 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.
During the rotation of the turret to prevent the overturning of the tank as required, a fire broke out in the turret as a result of an object inserted into it, causing the tank’s fire detection system to extinguish the blaze.  The soldiers inside the tank, who were not injured from the initial crash, were injured from breathing in the fumes caused by the blaze and subsequent fire suppression materials.
Following the investigation, it was determined that there would be training for soldiers to escape from burning tanks as well as for troops to maintain physical fitness even during operational deployment.
The military stated that relevant bodies are working to protect soldiers in tanks, and will be examining the optimal use of fire extinguishers and fire safety equipment. In addition, it was decided to begin a process to establish clear guidelines for lighting a tank during operations.
According to a statement released by the IDF, among the main lessons include the “sharpening of procedures with respect to the armored vehicle and how it should operate in different lighting conditions.”
It was also decided that a process would begin in order to establish a clear directive regarding lighting of the vehicle during operational employment.
“The operational lessons learned from the incident will be assimilated into the IDF in all relevant units and training exercises,” the IDF said.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot accepted the recommendations of the team of experts appointed by Ground Force head Maj.-Gen. Kobi Barak, and instructed the military to implement the lessons learned in order to prevent the recurrence of similar events.
The findings of the investigation were presented to the Drori family and families of the wounded.