Originally published at: https://jewishoriginal.com/1997-idf-helicopter-disaster-remembrance/
#onthisday, February 4th, 1997, the “Disaster of the Helicopters’’(Ason HaMasokim) occurred as two IDF helicopters transferring soldiers to southern Lebanon collided and all 73 soldiers onboard both were tragically killed.
15 years after the start of the First Lebanon War, Israel still held forces in a security zone in the south of Lebanon. Initially, troops were transported by land crossings, but with the increase in hostilities and especially roadside bombing attacks, the choice was made to transport troops by air.
On 4 February 1997, two helicopters received permission to take off from Rosh Pina to transport troops and equipment. One helicopter was chartering soldiers from the Nahal Brigade while the other were members of the Israeli Air Force.
Over only fifteen minutes disaster would strike. Shortly after they left Israeli airspace the two aircrafts disappeared from monitoring devices. IDF investigations determined that the rotor of the one helicopter hit the tail of the other. The helicopters went up in flames and all 73 soldiers on board the two aircrafts were killed in moments. The resulting crash resulted in a fire caused by the ammunition of the troop’s weapons. This had been the deadliest aviation accident in the history of the IDF and at the time one of the most lethal in the world.
To many, this was the final straw with the war in Lebanon – increased pressure was felt internally for Israel to withdraw from Lebanon. Two years later, Israel withdrew from Southern Lebanon to the Blue Line ending 17 years of war – however, hostilities continue to this very day as Israel fought Hezbollah in 2006 and continue to since the attacks of October 7th, 2023.
In 2008, a memorial was erected outside Kibbutz Dafna, close to the crash site of one of the helicopters, comprising 73 limestone pillars arranged around a circular pool, fed by a water channel. Underneath the water in the pool, the names of the 73 soldiers are inscribed on black blocks. At She’ar Yashuv moshav, the site of the second helicopter crash, a “Forest of the Fallen” was planted in remembrance of those who perished. This forest comprises of 73 trees.
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May their memories be a blessing🕯️