An official IDF ceremony was held today in memory of the 73 soldiers who died in the greatest tragedy in IDF history. In 1997, two helicopters transporting combat soldiers to IDF outposts in southern Lebanon crashed into one another. The IDF Chief of Staff, the Northern Command chief and the Israeli Air Force Commander all participated in the ceremony.

1997 Helicopter disaster memorial site

1997 Helicopter disaster memorial site Photo Credit: Ilana Shkolnik via PikiWiki

Next week, Israel will mark 21 years since the greatest tragedy in IDF history, in which two Israeli Air Force (IAF) CH-53 Sea Stallion transport helicopters, called “Yas’ur 2000” by the IAF, collided near She’ar Yashuv in the Northern Galilee. An official IDF memorial ceremony was held on Tuesday near the helicopter disaster memorial site on Kibbutz Dafna. IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, IDF Northern Command chief Yoel Strik and IAF Commander Amikam Norkin all participated in the ceremony.

On February 4, 1997, the date of the tragic accident, the helicopters were transporting 73 IDF combat soldiers from the Nahal and Golani brigades, the Armored Corps and other units towards IDF outposts located in Israel’s security zone in southern Lebanon. Nobody survived the crash, including the air crew.

During the memorial ceremony, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Eizenkot both spoke, while the ceremony’s facilitator read aloud Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks.

Eizenkot eulogized the fallen, stating that “the 73 combat soldiers served together and took off together for a joint mission in the security zone and died together. They were our native landscape. Sons of the city, the village and the kibbutz. Secular, religious, Bedouin, Druze and Jewish. Everyone together, all lovers of the country who operated with a shared sense of responsibility and commitment to guaranteeing the State of Israel’s security.”