Two IDF officers, Captain Dmitri Levitas and First Lieutenant Natan Cohen were killed in fighting in Gaza Strip overnight Tuesday, raising the death toll of IDF soldiers to 29, as Operation Protective Edge enters its 16th day.
In the last 24 hours some 20 IDF soldiers were wounded, three are in serious condition and nine sustained moderate wounds.
Captain Levitas, 26, an Armored Corps company commander from Jerusalem, was killed by sniper fire in Gaza. His family moved to Israel from Tashkent, Uzbekistan when he was just a year old, and he was planning a career in the military.
First Lieutenant Cohen, 23, also served in the Armored Corps, but as platoon commander. The time and location of both their funerals will be published later in the day.
Two Israeli civilians have also been killed by Palestinian rocket fire that has reached deep into Israel, disrupting daily life and spreading panic despite the success of Iron Dome.
Three Palestinians died in Israeli strikes on Wednesday, Gaza officials said. Rocket launches set off air-raid sirens in southern Israel, but there was no word on casualties.
There was also violence in the West Bank, where a Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli troops near Bethlehem. The army said soldiers fired a rubber bullet at him during a confrontation with dozens of Palestinians hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails.
On Tuesday, some 13 IDF soldiers killed in the ground incursion into Gaza were laid to rest and it was announced that one soldier was still missing. The number includes Staff Sergeant Jordan Ben Simon, a French national and lone soldier, whose funeral was attended by over 5,000 people after an online campaign urged Israelis to show support for the fallen warrior.
Meanwhile, more than 30,000 people attended the funeral Wednesday for fellow lone soldier Max Steinberg, who was laid to rest on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. The overwhelming support for the 24-year-old Californian native followed online drives urging Israelis to attend his funeral.
US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed “profound gratitude” Wednesday to the Israelis who spontaneously lined Jerusalem’s streets for Steinberg’s funeral procession. “That’s a remarkable statement – we’re very grateful,” he said.
Most of those who attended the funeral were people who did not know Steinberg, but had answered the call to pay their respects to him. Some people turned out draped in the Israeli flag.
Among them was 29-year-old Eli Stern, from Lod, who wanted to show his appreciation for Steinberg’s sacrifice.
“I came to support the family after hearing on the social networks that most of his family were not in the country. I do not know him, but I felt I had to be here, for his parents who come from abroad to feel all the people standing behind them, and that Max did not fall for nothing.”