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Monday, December 7, 2009

Shayetet 13 (Flotilla 13) commando dies in training

Shayetet 13 is the approximate equivalent of the US Navy seals. Originally inspired by an Italian navy commando unit, Shayetet 13 was neglected for many years. Beginning in the 1990s, it became an increasingly effective counter-terrorism unit,as carrying out or participating with Sayeret Matkal in some spectacular operations such as the Aviv Neurim operation in Beirut. Mortality and casualties from training accidents have always been a problem, particularly in the early days when diving suits were often of poor quality.
Dec. 7, 2009
A soldier from the elite navy commando unit Flotilla 13 died early Monday morning in a diving accident in the waters of the Ashdod Port.
The soldier, 19-year-old Gal Azulai from Zichron Yaakov, was training for diving maneuvers in enemy ports. He had been diving at a depth of three meters for about an hour-and-a-half when he became stressed.
Azulai's diving partner noticed he was in distress and the two immediately surfaced. The partner fired a flare and a standby medic with a team on a nearby dingy evacuated him to the dock where he was met by an ambulance.
Azulai received CPR for 40 minutes but efforts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful. A doctor in the ambulance pronounced him dead en route to Assaf Harofeh Hospital.
Navy Commander Admiral Eliezer Marom ordered the launching of an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the soldier's death. Military police have also launched their own independent probe. Azulai's diving equipment has been sent to experts for investigation.
The water temperature was 22 degrees Celsius, within the norms for the maneuvers, and the soldiers were wearing diving suits.
All diving exercises have been suspended until the conclusion of the investigation.
Azulai was a soldier in the Flotilla 13 unit. Known in Hebrew as 'Shayetet 13,' the unit is the Israeli equivalent of the US Navy Seals and is one of Israel's most elite special forces units. Navy sources say he was known to be in good physical condition and had four months remaining of his training before becoming a certified commando.
Flotilla 13 has conducted dozens of operations over the past year, most recently seizing an Iranian arms ship that was illegally smuggling weapons to Hizbullah.
Azulai was posthumously promoted to the rank of staff sergeant.
His funeral will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Zichron Yaakov military cemetery.
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