Two Israeli soldiers were killed and three others were wounded in a grenade explosion in the Golan Heights Sunday morning. The spokesman for the Israeli Army said that the injured soldiers were taken to hospital for treatment without revealing any further details.
The Israeli authorities assembled a committee to investigate the blast, headed by Col. Yoav Yarom, the commander of the Third Reserves Brigade. Senior officers from Northern Command, and the Ground Forces will take part in the investigation. Jerusalem Post newspaper identified the casualties as 20-year-old Sgt. Shlomo Rindenow, a soldier in the 401 Brigade, originally from New Jersey, and 24-year-old St.-Sgt. Husam Tafish, of Beit Jann.
An initial investigation stated that around 7:10am on Sunday morning, the military patrol jeep came from a routine brush cleaning operation on the border with Syria. The jeep approached an IDF outpost on the foothills of Mt. Hebron. There was an altercation ensued between the driver and the soldiers on the force. At a certain point, as the jeep got close to the outpost, the driver got out of the jeep, pulled the pin out of a fragmentation grenade, and walked towards the commander’s door. He then went to the front of the jeep, and when the commander’s door opened, the driver pushed his way inside and released the grenade.
According to the paper, the incident began on Sunday morning at the entrance to the Majdal Checkpoint, which is the first entry point to the Jebel ash-Sheikh. The soldiers, from the Israeli Combat Engineering Brigade, were in the area to secure it. According to the source’s account, an Israeli soldier in a David vehicle, an armored vehicle, carrying soldiers and a commander from the 601 battalion – a part of the Combat Engineers Brigade – pulled over near the Majdal checkpoint position. The jeep came to a stop a meter away from the position’s concrete wall. “At this stage, a conversation began, and the driver exited the vehicle, holding the grenade,” the source said.
The driver, a reservist from the northern Druze village of Beit Jann, had previously served as a career military driver, and recently returned to service. As the driver walked around the front of the vehicle, holding the grenade, the lone soldier, who was part of the checkpoint personnel, stood between the jeep and the wall. “We do not understand the circumstances of this event yet,” the source said. “The commander of the David vehicle then opened his door. At this time, the blast occurred.” The explosion killed the driver holding the grenade, and the lone soldier standing between the jeep and the wall. The commander in the vehicle sustained serious injuries. Two additional soldiers were lightly wounded by shrapnel. “This is a grave and difficult incident,” the source said.
Additionally, Sunday was the first day of a major training exercise in the Golan Heights which is supposed to end on Tuesday. There will be higher than usual numbers of security forces in the region. The IDF says that the drill has been planned for a long time as part of normal operating drills for 2016 for the purpose of maintaining the readiness of IDF forces.