The IDF has identified only six of the seven soldiers caught in a deadly ambush in Gaza City’s Shejaiya area earlier this week, the army announced Tuesday. The seventh soldier, named Tuesday afternoon as Oron Shaul, would appear to be missing in action. There is no definitive evidence of whether he is alive or dead.
“The identification process of six of the soldiers killed has been completed and confirmed,” the army said in a statement. “The efforts to identify the seventh soldier are ongoing and have yet to be determined.”
The announcement came several days after Hamas announced that it had abducted a soldier. “The Israeli soldier [name deleted] is in the hands of the Qassam Brigades,” a Hamas spokesman said more than 12 hours after the battle.
The army released the names of the six confirmed dead soldiers: Sgt. Max Steinberg, 24, originally from Los Angeles; First Sgt. Shahar Tase, 20, from Pardesiya; First Sgt. Daniel Pomerantz, 20, from Kfar Azar; Sgt. Shon Mondshein, 19, from Tel Aviv; Sgt. Ben Yitzhak Oanounou, 19, from Ashdod; and First Sgt. Oren Simcha Noach, 22, from Hoshaya.
The battle in Shejaiya began on Saturday night. During the early hours Sunday, a 1970s-model armored personnel carrier got stuck in one of the neighborhood’s narrow streets. A soldier and an officer got out of the armored vehicle to try and fix the problem, according to a report in the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth. Shortly thereafter, Hamas operatives opened fire on the stalled vehicle. An anti-tank missile penetrated the APC and exploded, causing immense damage.
The other soldiers in the area fought to reach the APC and either save or evacuate their comrades. Channel 10 reported that the army promptly summoned a drone over the area to provide visuals from above. No Hamas members, the channel said, were seen making contact with the APC or any of the bodies.
Nonetheless, after careful forensic work the army was not able to locate any traces of the seventh soldier.
Hamas, which, like Hezbollah, has a long history of sadistically toying with Israel over the fate of its soldiers, has released an ID photo of the apparently missing soldier along with his army ID number.
The family, which has been forced to swing back and forth between grim certainty over the fate of their son and a profound uncertainty, is being accompanied by army officers and constantly updated about the situation.
Maj. Gen. Orna Barbivai, the head of the IDF’s Manpower Division, has visited the family and is personally keeping them updated.