An IDF spokesman said Thursday a preliminary investigation into the incident in which stray artillery shells landed outside the security parameter and dangerously close to soldiers found that the Artillery Corps soldiers responsible for the misfire acted against standard IDF procedures and regulations.
According to the investigation, during the drill the artillery unit identified a malfunction in one the gun's guidance apparatus. The Unit's commander ordered to halt fire and proceeded to fix the malfunction. After making corrections, the crew acted against army regulations by resuming fire without taking the necessary measures to make certain that the problem was entirely fixed.
"At first we didn’t understand what was going on," said a soldier from the artillery battery which fired the stray shells. "Two guns fired shells, and apparently there was a miscommunication between the commander and gun layer. There was a lot of pressure, and the commander was yelling, but you must understand that the equipment is lousy compared with the equipment we have at the war reserves store unit.
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"We examined all the guns before the drill and everything appeared to be fine, but apparently the sight wasn't examined thoroughly enough," he told Ynet on Thursday.
"We unloaded two shells that were supposed to be fired in the same direction as the stray shells. The commander ordered us to halt and prevented a major disaster."
IDF chief Gantz with soldiers during drill (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
A captain who took part in exercise said "people were in shock, and the incident kind of discouraged the brigade."
The stray shells landed near IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, Central Command chief Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi and other senior officers. "Initially we thought the two explosions were part of the drill, but when we saw how close the smoke was we realized how serious the misfire was. Then someone yelled over the radio to halt fire."
The investigation found that the two 155 millimeter shells landed about two kilometers outside the designated safety parameter and exploded just 100-200 meters from General Mizrahi and other officers.
IDF chief Gantz suspended the drill, but it was renewed some 40 minutes later without artillery fire.
An infantry soldier who was close to the shells' landing site said "the ditches saved our lives, because one shell landed about 20 meters from our force, at the exact spot where a few minutes earlier we simulated an attack."
"When you hold live fire drills, you know there is a possibility of getting burned," one of the reservists said. "Accidents happen, and luckily it ended well."
According to him, the soldiers responsible for the misfire "took it hard, but everyone here is encouraged by the fact that we (reservists) all showed up after leaving our families, work and studies to train hard for the benefit of the country, and we are always prepared to stand in the front line."
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