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The occupation army is being affected seriously by suicide, low morale and mental illness

June 25, 2024 at 3:50 pm

Israelis hold a two-minute silence in memory of those killed on October 7 at the site of a music festival during national commemorations for soldiers and civilians killed since Israel’s founding in the town of Re’im, Israel on May 13, 2024 [Mostafa Alkharouf – Anadolu Agency]

More than 250 days since the outbreak of the Israeli aggression against the Palestinians in Gaza, the Israeli occupation army is slowly revealing the issues that are killing its troops, along with other factors which limit its ability to achieve its purported objectives. I’m talking about an increasing number of suicides, serious psychological problems and low morale. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a real issue.

The army has apparently opened an investigation into the phenomenon of suicide among its soldiers, because it has been unable to address it adequately. It is a symptom of the mental illness affecting more and more Israeli soldiers, and not just among the other ranks. At least one lieutenant colonel has committed suicide, prompting the head of the Lior Tsfaty Centre for Suicide and Mental Pain Studies, Professor Yossi Levi-Belz, to say that the issue is extremely surprising because they are not accustomed to it during combat, even though it includes those who suffer from PTSD, who wake up every morning to various sights, sounds and feelings of guilt. However, the army refuses to publish the names of soldiers and officers who have committed suicide and keeps them secret.

Nevertheless, we know that between 1973 and 2024, 1,227 Israeli soldiers committed suicide based on official records, but the actual number is believed to be much higher. Some have claimed that the army is covering up the exact number. The will to fight has collapsed, despite the destruction being carried out in Gaza. Morale is low. The army has begun to falter between a deteriorating military spirit and the desire to desert. With more unwilling to serve in the occupied Palestinian territories, including Gaza, Israel faces the imminent collapse of its reserve forces. Frustration and anxiety are spreading among soldiers, leading to the loss of combat readiness, low morale and a deep sense of fear and despair.

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Israeli soldiers have found in Gaza that despite their superior equipment and intense training, they have become easy targets for the resistance fighters. It is clear from the percentage of soldiers killed in action that their lives in tanks has become an unbearable hell. Their orders include remaining inside the tanks all the time, and they must not even look out of their tanks in case they are shot by snipers. Don’t even ask how they go to the toilet.

Moreover, the occupation army is losing the usual high level of public confidence that it has enjoyed for decades.

Such confidence in the army leadership has been eroded since the war started in Gaza, falling significantly from 75 per cent in March to 59 per cent in early May, while 70 per cent of Israelis apparently believe that Chief of Staff General Herzl Halevi should resign due to his security failure on 7 October.

This is a major cause of concern for the army, which considers the task of maintaining its position in the heart of Israeli citizens to be an official duty. The problem has not been helped by its failures in Gaza, and soldiers returning from the front line making negative comments, thus increasing the impact of its failures on its once well-polished image.

More and more Israelis no longer believe that the “Israel Defence Forces” are the strongest in the region. Instead, they are less optimistic about the capabilities of the troops, which makes it difficult to boost morale within the ranks and win the Gaza war. Senior officers now fear the army’s complete loss of credibility. Even more dangerous is that they no longer have the “moral” authority to send soldiers to war after their intelligence failure last October.

The crisis of confidence in the occupation army was evident, not in the critical voices abroad, although there were many, but in those within the institution. A group of senior reserve officers holding the rank of brigadier general and above want an external investigation of the failures of the war in Gaza, because they saw with their own eyes that very serious mistakes were made, as a result of which the occupation state has paid a heavy price.

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The erosion in the army’s customary immunity from public criticism in recent months is an important issue, because it changes its long-held relationship with the wider Israeli society. Until just a few years ago, the army was very much a “sacred cow” that Israelis would neither criticise nor seek to damage in any way.

Over the past eight months of the war in Gaza psychological problems have increased significantly among military personnel.

The data shows that in recent months there has been a worrying increase in the number in those receiving psychological services.

It has reached the point that officials from the army’s human resources division claim that “psychological problems” have become a convenient way out for citizens to evade military service.

It should be noted that among the disorders that Israeli soldiers suffer from are loneliness and isolation; forced separation from their relatives; poor eating, drinking and sleeping; and tremendous pressure due to their inability to predict guerrilla tactics, making it difficult for them to anticipate the time and place of the next attack or ambush. They have also become burdened by other combat pressures, to the point that their psychological defences become exhausted, and then psychological breakdowns occur, along with insomnia, withdrawal, confusion, paranoia, distrust, feelings of being persecuted, and an exponential escalation of social and psychological problems.

While the Gaza war has imposed heavy costs on the Israelis in terms of human losses and physical injuries, psychological disorders have seen thousands of soldiers seek treatment. Due to post-traumatic stress, people have begun to live in a state of psychological isolation, with the phenomenon of crying spreading among soldiers. Many have resorted to the severest types of violence to give vent to the pressures that are distressing them.

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