Suicides down in IDF in 2020, but remain leading cause of death for troops

Twenty-eight Israel Defense Forces soldiers died over the course of 2020, the second-lowest number in the country’s history, the military says.

Suicide remained the leading cause of death for soldiers, with at least nine service members having taken their own lives, according to IDF Manpower Directorate commander Maj. Gen. Moti Almoz.

A tenth soldier may have also died by suicide, though the investigation into that case has not been completed, Almoz tells reporters.

Only last year had a smaller number of fatalities, with 27 deaths reported. That year’s count also included Zachary Baumel, who was killed in the 1982 First Lebanon War but had been officially deemed missing until his body was recovered in 2019.

Though 2020 was not the year with the lowest total fatalities in the IDF, the past year has seen the fewest Israelis, civilians or soldiers, killed in security-related incidents: 3. One IDF soldier — Amit Ben-Ygal — was killed during a raid in the West Bank village of Yabed in May 2020, the only service member killed during “operational activity” last year, according to the IDF.

The other two people — Rabbi Shay Ohayon and Esther Horgen — were killed in terror attacks in August and December, respectively.

After suicides, the next leading cause of death in the IDF in 2020 was car accidents, which claimed the lives of six soldiers, according to the military.

Five soldiers died from illness in 2020, though none from the coronavirus, Almoz says.

An Air Force officer and a cadet in the IDF’s Pilot’s Course were killed in a plane crash in November, the exact cause of which remains under investigation.

Two service members were killed in work accidents, and three were killed under other circumstances, including the one whose death is being investigated as a possible suicide, according to the military.

— Judah Ari Gross