Tank fires live shell during what should have been ‘dry’ exercise
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Tank fires live shell during what should have been ‘dry’ exercise

No injuries in accident on same Tzeelim base where 5 soldiers were killed by artillery fire in a 1990 exercise

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

Illustrative. IDF soldiers train next to a tank at the Tzeelim army base in southern Israel on August 19, 2015. (Israel Defense Forces/Flickr)
Illustrative. IDF soldiers train next to a tank at the Tzeelim army base in southern Israel on August 19, 2015. (Israel Defense Forces/Flickr)

The army has launched an investigation into a serious safety violation that took place during an exercise in southern Israel last week, in which a tank fired a live shell during what was supposed to be a dry run.

During the exercise for reservists, which was not supposed to include live fire, one of the tanks launched one of its shells, the army said. No one was injured by the shot.

The accident occurred at the Tzeelim base in southern Israel, the same place where a 1990 training accident, known as the “Tzeelim disaster,” killed five soldiers.

Army Radio, which first reported on last week’s incident, said the exercise continued despite the safety violation. “There’s a feeling they tried to whitewash it,” a reservist told the station on Sunday.

The military, however, said the drill was called to a halt after the shot was fired, and the commanders on the scene launched an initial investigation right away.

“In addition, the tank crew in question was removed from the exercise, the overseer of the drill was replaced, and during a ‘safety stop,’ the guidelines were clarified,” the army said in a statement.

The military added that a more thorough investigation of the incident will be carried out “by the relevant groups.”

Last week’s live fire during what was meant to be a “dry” exercise raised comparisons with the “Tzeelim disaster.”

In the 1990 training accident, an artillery officer accidentally confused his codewords and gave the order to fire on the wrong position.

Instead of hitting an empty hill, the howitzer fired a shell at a simulated enemy position, which a group of reservists had just taken over as part of the exercise.

Five soldiers were killed in the strike and 10 were injured, three of them seriously.

As a result of the disaster, the military called for a substantial improvement of its safety protocols, as well as the creation of a safety division of the IDF General Staff.

It took nearly four years for these improvements to be put into place. After an initially slow implementation process, the effort was pushed ahead after another lethal training accident at Tzeelim in 1992. In that incident, five soldiers from the elite Sayeret Matkal unit were killed when they were shot with live rounds by members of their own unit during a training session that was meant to simulate a planned assassination of then-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

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