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Fewer Officers To Be Armed As Suicide Becomes IDF's Top Killer - Ha'aretz (repost0
by Kate Marco
Wednesday Dec 14th, 2005 2:54 PM
Could it be the stress related to the occupation that is behind this rise in IDF suicides?

Last update - 22:49 14/12/2005

Fewer officers to be armed as suicide becomes IDF's top killer

By Gideon Alon, Haaretz Correspondent

Thirty-three Israel Defense Force soldiers committed suicide since the beginning of 2005, the chief of the IDF
manpower headquarters, Brigadier-General Avi Zimer, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Wednesday.

The head of the IDF's manpower division, General Eliezar Stern, said during the meeting that to combat this wave of suicides, it was recently decided that officers and non-commissioned officers in rear units will be armed. Additionally, soldiers in rear units will be prohibited to carry weapons while on leave.

These steps join other measures taken by the IDF on the matter, including reducing the number of weapons in soldiers' hands when there is a fear the guns will be used to end their own lives. The IDF has also worked to increase commanders' awareness of the necessity of caring for soldiers' mental distress.

The number of suicide deaths accounts for half the total of 66 soldiers who died during their army service in 2005. Sixteen soldiers were killed in traffic accidents while they were on leave, nine died of illness, six died during operations and two died under what were identified as other circumstances.

Stern said the IDF is fighting a serious battle against suicide, and that the army approaches the subject in the most serious manner possible. The IDF doesn't make any distinction between a soldier who dies during an operation and a soldier who commits suicide, Stern said, and both are buried in the same section of the military cemetery.

IDF commander-in-chief General Dan Halutz announced last month that suicide had become the number one cause of death among soldiers, although the number of suicides hadn't grown and the number "is relatively low in comparison to that of other countries in the world." Most of the soldiers who killed themselves did so during their first year of army service.

Overall, the number of total deaths in the IDF in 2005 is lower than in previous years, according to the statistics presented to the Knesset Committee. The drop can be attributed to a decrease in the number of soldiers who died in offensive operations. By comparison, in 2004, 112 soldiers were killed, and of them, 39 died in offensive maneuvers; in 2002, 230 soldiers died and of them, 134 were killed in offensive operations.

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