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4 IDF troops accidentally left behind on Jordanian side of the fence near Syria

Non-combat soldiers stuck for half an hour after their commander didn’t notice they didn’t come back with rest of group; IDF sees incident as serious, but not dangerous

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

A picture taken on November 8, 2019, shows an Israeli soldier closing a border gate on the Israeli side of the border at the Jordan Valley site of Naharayim. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
Illustrative. A picture taken on November 8, 2019, shows an Israeli soldier closing a border gate on the Israeli side of the border at the Jordan Valley site of Naharayim. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Four non-combat soldiers were accidentally left behind on the Jordanian side of the security fence, near the Syrian border, earlier this month after their mission commander failed to notice that they hadn’t returned with the rest of the group, the Israel Defense Forces said Sunday.

The troops, who served in a telecommunications unit, remained on the wrong side of the fence, largely unprotected, for less than an hour before they were retrieved.

The incident was first reported by Army Radio and was confirmed to The Times of Israel by a military spokesperson.

The spokesman said the military did not see this incident as having been particularly dangerous as the troops were not entirely exposed — the entire area was surrounded by an active minefield and the Yarmouk River — and two of them were armed, yet it was still considered to be a significant error. The matter was under investigation by the battalion commander.

According to the initial findings, on December 2, a group of soldiers traveled to an outpost on the Jordanian side of the security fence but still within Israeli territory, a few kilometers south of the Syrian border, to fix electronic equipment that required maintenance. They were protected by infantry troops and tanks.

The soldiers in question — two technicians and two drivers — finished their work and were waiting in their car for the rest of the group to return to base. Though they maintain that they did not fall asleep, the soldiers had turned the headlights off and reclined their seats back, the spokesperson said.

When the work was completed, the rest of the team made its return to the Israeli side of the fence shortly after midnight, locking the gates behind them. In the dark, the commander of the mission did not see the four soldiers’ vehicle and it appears he did not perform a count to otherwise ensure that everyone left the area.

At roughly 12:45 a.m., the troops realized they had been left behind — around the same time that the mission commander realized not all of the vehicles had returned — and an effort was launched to bring them back.

Shortly after 1 a.m., the soldiers had returned to the Israeli side of the border.

The battalion commander was expected to complete his investigation on Sunday and present the findings to his superior officer, the spokesman said.

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