The IDF announced Friday that Sgt. Oron Shaul, previously declared Missing in Action and claimed by Hamas to have been kidnapped, was killed in the Gaza neighborhood of Shejaiya during a bloody battle in which six other IDF troops died as well.
The missing soldier’s remains have not been found, but a special IDF ethics committee ruled that sufficient evidence exists to determine that Shaul was killed in the attack.
Shaul’s death, along with the deaths of Master Sergeant Yair Ashkenazy and Staff Sergeant Guy Levy killed Friday, raised the IDF death toll since July 8, when Operation Protective Edge began, to 35.
Levy was killed by an anti-tank missile fired from near a UN school, the IDF said. Mortar shells and anti-tank missiles were fired “from a structure near an UNRWA school,” the IDF said, killing Levy and injuring several others.
IDF Chief Rabbi Brig. Gen. Rafi Peretz notified the soldier’s family that Shaul was designated a fallen soldier “whose place of burial is unknown.” This means a funeral will not be held at this time. Racheli Gazit, speaking on behalf of the family on Friday afternoon, said the family was “still grappling with the news” and would not say that they accepted it. Hitherto, the family had stated that they considered Shaul to be alive.
The battle in Shejaiya began overnight Saturday-Sunday. During the early hours Sunday, a 1970s-model armored personnel carrier stalled in one of the neighborhood’s narrow streets, prompting one soldier and an officer to exit the vehicle in order to try and fix the problem, according to one account of the events in the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth. Shortly thereafter, Hamas operatives fired an anti-tank missile at APC. The vehicle then 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 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. Nevertheless, Hamas claimed to have kidnapped Shaul, releasing an ID photo of the missing soldier along with his army ID number.
Subsequent reports, including on Channel 2, said it was soldiers in a rescue APC, sent to help with the stalled vehicle, who were hit by the missile.
After careful forensic work, the army was able to locate six soldiers who were killed in the APC blast, but initial reports indicated that no traces of Shaul, the seventh soldier, were found.
Friday’s announcement by the IDF, however, indicated that sufficient information had been gathered to formally designate Shaul as having died.
Earlier Friday, an Israeli reservist soldier, Yair Ashkenazy, 36, was killed in combat in the northern Gaza Strip. Ashkenazy is survived by his wife and three children.
The IDF was investigating the possibility that Ashkenazy had been killed by friendly fire, Channel 2 reported.
On Friday evening, the IDF announced that another soldier, Guy Levy, 21, from Kfar Vradim, had been killed fighting in central Gaza when his tank was hit by an anti-tank missile.