2 Soldiers Killed in Gaza Combat as Military Expands Operations

By Yoni Weiss

Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in the central Gaza Strip, May 18. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

The IDF announced on Sunday the deaths of two soldiers during combat in the southern Gaza Strip the previous day. This came as the military expanded its operations in the Strip, while Palestinian terrorists launched rockets at southern Israel.

The fallen soldiers were identified as Staff Sgt. Nachman Meir Chaim Vaknin, Hy”d, 20, from Eilat, and Staff Sgt. Noam Bittan, Hy”d, 20, from Yad Rambam. Both served in the Givati Brigade’s reconnaissance unit.

Vaknin and Bittan were killed in a blast from a booby-trapped tunnel shaft in the Rafah area, which also seriously wounded two other soldiers and an officer from their unit. Their deaths bring the toll of IDF troops killed in the ground offensive against Hamas in Gaza and border operations to 282.

In a separate incident, a reservist from the 5832nd Combat Engineering Battalion was seriously wounded in Rafah when his D9 armored bulldozer was struck by an RPG.

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