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Israeli Military Court Convicts Junior Officers in Training Accident

An Israeli military court this week found two mid-level army officers guilty of negligence in a training accident that killed five Israeli soldiers and wounded six others two years ago.

But while convicting the unnamed major and captain, the court absolved three top officers of any responsibility for the mishap.

The three, who were all present at the Israel Defense Force’s Tze’elim training and practice area in the Negev when the accident occurred in 1992, were IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Ehud Barak, IDF Chief of Intelligence Maj. Gen. Uri Saguy and Maj. Gen. Avraham Levine, who was in charge of the training exercise.

The incident, known throughout Israel as the “Tze’elim 2 Case,” followed an earlier training mishap at the same base. The five soldiers were killed after a live missile was reportedly fired at the wrong map coordinates and fell on the group of soldiers.

A tight lid of secrecy was imposed on the court’s proceedings, prompting demands from the families of the dead soldiers to be present in court.

A compromise was finally reached under which Reserve Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Hofi, a former head of the Mossad intelligence service, was allowed to be present in court as an observer on behalf of the families and report to them a censored version of what went on in the closed-door proceedings.

After this week’s announcement of the court’s verdict in the case, the families complained that “once again, as had happened several times in the past, junior officers are being found guilty for actions which also involved top army brass, but without the generals being found at least partly guilty.”

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