12 IDF Soldiers Fall in Gaza Over Shabbos

By Matis Glenn

Eight Israeli soldiers were tragically killed in an APC (armored personnel carrier) when the vehicle caught fire after hitting an explosive device near Rafah on Shabbos, and four more soldiers fell the same day. The names of the soldiers were released on Motzoei Shabbos and Sunday after notifying their families.

The soldiers identified by the IDF who were in the APC are:

  • Sergeant Eliyahu Moshe Zimbalist, Hy”d, 21, from Beit Shemesh, a soldier in Battalion 601.
  • Sergeant Itay Amar, Hy”d, 19, from Kochav Yair-Tzur Yigal, a soldier in Battalion 601.
  • Staff Sergeant Stanislav Kostarev, Hy”d, 21, from Ashdod, a soldier in Battalion 601.
  • Staff Sergeant Orr Blumovitz, Hy”d, 20, from Pardes Hanna-Karkur, a soldier in Battalion 601.
  • Staff Sergeant Oz Yeshaia Gruber, Hy”d, 20, from Tal Menashe, a soldier in Battalion 601.
  • Sgt. Shalom Menachem, Hy”d 21 from Beit El, a soldier in Battalion 601.
  • Yakir Levi, Hy”d, 21, from Kibbutz Chafetz Chaim, a soldier in Battalion 601.

Capt. Wassem Mahmoud, 23, from Beit Jann, was killed in the APC explosion. He was also a member of Battalion 601.

The names of four other soldiers who were killed over Shabbos are:

  • Capt. (res.) Eitan Koplovich, Hy”d, 28, from Yerushalayim, a combat officer in the 129th Battalion.
  • Senior Staff Sergeant Major (res.) Elon Waiss, Hy”d, 49, from Psagot, a soldier in the 129th Battalion.
  • Senior Staff Sergeant Major (Res.) Elon Waiss, Hy”d 49, from Psagot, a soldier in the 129th Battalion of the 8th Brigade
  • Staff Sergeant Tzur Abraham, Hy”d 22, from Modi’in, a soldier in the Nahal Brigade, was killed in southern Gaza.

The soldiers in the APC were part of an engineering force, working together with a Givati Brigade battalion. At around 5:15a.m., a large explosion occurred while they were traveling, according to Arutz 7. No shots were apparently fired prior to the explosion. Five or six APC’s had traveled ahead of the one that was attacked; it is not yet known if the bomb was on the ground or had been attached to the vehicle at some point.

It took around two hours for rescue workers to locate the APC, which burned for a long period of time.

Two other soldiers, whose names have not yet been released, were seriously wounded in the APC explosion.

Waiss was set to marry off his daughter next month, and had brought another daughter to her chuppah a few weeks ago.

Levi, Menachem, and Zimbalist were classmates at Yeshivat Shalavim, a yeshiva which combines military service and Torah study.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that the deaths of the soldiers were “heartbreaking”. “When the price is so heavy, we will remember what we are fighting for: we are fighting to ensure our existence and our future, we are fighting to return all our hostages,” he said Sunday. “This hard war was forced upon us by a loathsome and murderous enemy” on October 7, attacking “babies and children, women and men, young and old.”

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Sunday wrote on social media that he was “deeply saddened when, in the early hours of the morning, I received the difficult news about the death of eight IDF soldiers in the battle in Rafah.

“The pain is great, my heart and thoughts are with their families,” he writes. “I bow my head together with all the people of Israel in memory of the heroes who fell…May their memory be a blessing.”

The military was also investigating the possibility that explosives stored on the outside of the APC contributed to the massive blast. Normally, the mines and other explosives stored on the outside of APC’s would not manage to cause injury.

“Following this difficult incident, team of experts from the Defense Ministry and IDF will examine the armored vehicle and all the details of the incident, until we reach findings,” Rear Admr. Daniel Hagari said in a press conference.

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