Hundreds of family and friends attended the funeral on Wednesday of Sgt. Avinoam Cohen, 22, at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem. Cohen was killed in a training accident on the Golan Heights.
Lieutenant Avshalom Armoni, who was also killed in the accident, will be laid to rest in the same cemetery on Thursday.
The two IDF soldiers were killed and four others wounded when a self-propelled howitzer in which they were traveling flipped over during a training exercise in the Golan Heights late Tuesday night, the army said.
One of the soldiers was severely injured and taken by helicopter to a nearby hospital. The army said there was no immediate threat to his life. A second was moderately wounded, and the other two soldiers were lightly hurt.
Eulogizing his son at the funeral, Cohen’s father spoke of the pain he felt at the loss.
“Today, the Jewish people lost a pure soul,” Shimon Cohen said. “For 22 years we had a gift and we need to return it, and we have returned it. It hurts, it hurts, it hurts, but we accept this.”
Cohen’s brother Shagai said: “We were very close. Only you know how much. You fought for everything in life, in every battle you won, you didn’t give up. Thank you for letting us into your heart, we learned a lot from you.”
As a result of the accident, the military called off all exercises until Sunday, beginning Wednesday afternoon. In addition, no mobile cannons will be allowed to drive after dark until further notice, the army said.
The soldiers were members of the 411th Battalion of the 282nd Regiment in the IDF’s Artillery Corps. They were taking part in an exercise for a company and battalion commanders course, driving in their mobile cannon from the area of the Nafah military base toward the nearby Wasset intersection.
As they traveled down a dirt road parallel to the Route 978 highway, they had to make a U-turn. When they started to make the turn, their cannon was positioned head-on with a line of vehicles that were also taking part in the exercise. The driver reported that the lights of the oncoming cars were “blinding him,” the army said.
While continuing to make the three-point turn, the self-propelled cannon went off the path and fell 26 feet (eight meters) into a ditch, an IDF spokesperson said.
Two teams of experts — one led by a brigadier general from the IDF Ground Forces and the second from the army’s company and battalion commanders course — will review the crash in order to determine how it happened and how it could have been prevented. It will also be investigated by the Military Police.