Ze’ev “Zevik” Etzion, who was killed by Hamas mortar fire on Tuesday, was laid to rest Thursday in the cemetery of his hometown, Kibbutz Nirim, near the border with the Gaza Strip. Dozens of people from the communities near the Gaza border attended the funeral procession, which began at the nearby kibbutz of Yad Mordechai, Ynet reported.
Etzion, 55, left behind a wife, Navah, and five children.
Nirim resident Shahar Melamed, a 43-year-old father of 3, was killed in the attack as well. He was laid to rest at the Nirim cemetery on Wednesday.
One more person was severely injured, and three others suffered minor wounds, in the strike on the Eshkol region community.
The Nirim attack came amid a fierce bombardment of the towns and communities of southern Israel in the hour before a ceasefire agreed upon by Israeli and Palestinian representatives took effect.
Etzion, a longtime volunteer ambulance driver for Magen David Adom and the security chief for the kibbutz, was killed on the spot as he and Melamed, his deputy, worked to fix electricity lines damaged in an earlier mortar attack. Melamed died en route to the hospital.
Residents at the small kibbutz struggled to cope with the loss of their two community members, both of whom were said to be key figures in Nirim.
“It is a very hard day at Kibbutz Nirim, we are just beginning to process the situation,” Deddy Rubinstein, a member of the kibbutz, told Ynet.
“They were the pillars of the kibbutz, they put everything into the kibbutz,” another resident said of Etzion and Melamed, according to Israel Hayom. “They did it all with love, it is tragic that they died within a few hours of each other, in an attempt to protect the kibbutz.”
Other kibbutz members commented on the timing of the attack, less than an hour before a ceasefire took effect.
“There is always a last casualty, always in the last minute,” Adi Hamawi, a member of the Nirim security squad which was led by Etzion, told Ynet.
“We are left with a very heavy feeling; we returned to the starting point [pre-conflict] as if nothing had happened,” Hamawi said of the operation.
The two Israelis killed Tuesday raised the civilian death toll in Israel during Operation Protective Edge to six.
Last week a four-year-old child, Daniel Tragerman, was killed in an attack in the nearby Kibbutz Nahal Oz.