Remembering the 1997 Israeli helicopter disaster that claimed the lives of 73 soldiers

?️ WE REMEMBER: Today, 22 years ago occurred the most devasting air disaster in Israeli military history in which 73 soldiers were killed in a midair helicopter crash.

On February 4, 1997, two Israeli Air Force helicopters took off from two different airports in northern Israel. One helicopter, numbered 903, was designated to fly to the “Pumpkin” Outpost, east of Nabatiyeh, and had four crew and 32 passengers on board. The second helicopter, 357, was to fly to an Israeli position at Beaufort Castle and had four crew and 33 passengers on board.

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The two aircraft collided in midair over a moshav in the Upper Galilee, killing everyone on board. Most of the soldiers were in their late teens or early 20s and came from communities across the country.

According to one witness who observed the event from the ground, “Two helicopters passed over my house without their lights on. Then there was a flash. One fell straight away and the other wavered for half a kilometer … then it also exploded.”

One of the helicopters crashed in a fireball directly onto She’ar Yashuv, setting an empty bungalow on fire, while the other crashed into the cemetery of kibbutz Dafna a few hundred yards away.

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Fires, fueled by gasoline from the helicopters, broke out on the ground, and munitions that had been stored aboard the helicopters cooked off and set off a series of explosions.

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Some witnesses claimed they could hear faint cries coming from the wreckage, but they could not get close because of the explosions, and that the cries ceased after the explosions.