A serious accident during navigation exercises by the reconnaissance battalion of the elite paratrooper brigade cost Sergeant Evyatar Yosefi his life when he drowned in a flash flood in Nachal Hilazon in the Lower Galilee. According to the report of the investigative committee that was made public today, the region was experiencing severe weather conditions with heavy rains and localized flooding when the soldiers of the reconnaissance battalion were conducting night navigation exercises. In order to reach their navigation target, the soldiers needed to cross the riverbed of Nachal Hilazon, a riverbed that is dry most of the year. However, upon arriving at the riverbed, they found it flooded with significant flow of water. The leader of the unit, Sergeant Yosefi, informed the command staff, who were located in an enclosed command vehicle of the severe difficulty in crossing the flooded riverbed. Ignoring his warning and failing to properly assess the situation, the deputy battalion commander, the platoon commander, and the deputy platoon commander commanded the team to proceed to the navigation target point and threatened them that if they failed to acquire the target they would be expelled from the prestigious unit.
The team, comprised of ten troops, assembled at the riverbed at night with full gear and after their request to avoid crossing the river in the dark was denied again, Sergeant Yosefi entered the raging waters and drowned. In the immediate aftermath of the event, the battalion commander, who was not present in the command vehicle took full responsibility for the actions of his staff.
The inquiry committee, having interviewed the soldiers and the entire chain of command, has determined that “the soldier who tragically lost his life bears no responsibility for his death”. They further determined that the chain of command starting with the battalion commander “acted without the professionalism that is expected of a command staff, failing to adhere to the principle of sanctity of life in the planning and the execution of the exercise.”
As a result of the inquiry, the battalion commander, who was slated to be promoted to the position of deputy division commander and four other officers were discharged from the IDF and an official reprimand was entered into the service file of the commanding officer of the paratrooper brigade. The officers discharged included deputy battalion commander, team leader, commanding officer of the infantry training school for the paratrooper brigade, and another officer with the rank of lieutenant.
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The IDF constantly walks a fine line, pushing its soldiers to experience in training conditions that are as close to actual war fighting as possible and to foster in them a sense of total dedication to achieving their objectives, without, however, crossing the line into reckless endangerment of their lives. This time the line was crossed and several lives were ruined, one of them tragically lost forever.
The loss of Sergeant Yosefi and the loss to IDF of highly trained senior infantry officers combine to make this one of the more serious peacetime incidents in recent IDF history and shows that IDF leadership, starting with the Chief of General Staff are not deterred from the sometimes painful action that is required to maintain the highest standards of combat readiness in the IDF.