TEL AVIV (Nov. 8)
Human error has been ruled out as the cause of an accident fatal to two Israeli soldiers at the U.S. Army’s weapons proving ground near Yuma, Ariz.
Two other Israeli soldiers were injured in the accident, which occurred Monday.
According to preliminary reports of the joint Israel Defense Force-U.S. Army investigating team, a shell exploded in the breech of a 155mm M-109 Howitzer, a tank-mounted artillery piece being test-fired.
The dead soldiers were identified Wednesday as Staff Sgt. Mark Eilon, 20, of Moshav Netiv Ha’asarah, and Sgt. Nahum Golan, 20, of Ramat Hasharon. They reportedly were inside a tank when the shell exploded.
The injured are Capt. Yehiel Kuperstein and Sgt. Albert Levy, who were outside. Both were reported in stable condition after undergoing minor surgery at the Yuma Regional Medical Center.
Kuperstein was in charge of a 20-member IDF team testing upgraded military equipment jointly with U.S. Army officers.
The M-109 Howitzer mounted on a tank platform is a basic artillery weapon of both the American and Israeli armed forces, and is used by several Western countries.
Since it has proven dependable, the U.S. Army has decided to upgrade it rather than replace it with more modern artillery because of budgetary constraints.