3 soldiers killed fighting Hamas in Gaza; man missing since Oct. 7 declared dead

Sgt. Major (res.) Neriya Shaer, Sgt. First Class (res.) Ben Zussman, Sgt. Binyamin Yehoshua Needham die in battles; Yonatan Samarno shot fleeing Re’im festival, body held by Hamas

From left: Sgt. First Class (res.) Ben Zussman, 22, Sgt. Maj. (res.) Neriya Shaer, 36, and Sgt. Binyamin Yehoshua Needham, 19, who were killed in fighting in the Gaza Strip on December 3, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
From left: Sgt. First Class (res.) Ben Zussman, 22, Sgt. Maj. (res.) Neriya Shaer, 36, and Sgt. Binyamin Yehoshua Needham, 19, who were killed in fighting in the Gaza Strip on December 3, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces announced Monday the deaths of three troops in fighting against Hamas in the Gaza Strip a day before, bringing the military death toll since Israel’s ground offensive in Gaza began in late October to 75.

The troops who were killed on Sunday were:

Sgt. Maj. (res.) Neriya Shaer, 36, of the 55th Reserve Paratroopers Brigade’s 6655th Battalion, from Yavne.

Sgt. First Class (res.) Ben Zussman, 22, of the Combat Engineering Corps’ 601st Battalion, from Jerusalem.

Sgt. Binyamin Yehoshua Needham, 19, of the Combat Engineering Corps’ 601st Battalion, from Zichron Yaakov.

Shaer was killed in the central Gaza Strip, while Zussman and Needham were killed in the enclave’s north.

The announcement came after their families were notified.

This picture taken in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip shows smoke rising after an Israeli strike on December 3, 2023. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

In an online post, Shaer’s sister Hadar described her brother as a “humble person, with a heart of gold, a giver and loved his country.”

A friend of Zussman wrote online that he “he had a sense of humor, and was a hard worker who was always invested, no matter the task.”

The IDF also said a soldier of the Combat Engineering Corps’ 601st Battalion was seriously wounded in battles in northern Gaza on Sunday.

Since the start of the war on October 7, the IDF announced the deaths of 401 soldiers. Of those, 75 died during the ground offensive inside the Gaza Strip. The vast majority of the others were killed in fighting with Hamas terrorists in southern Israel, almost all of them on the day of the initial devastating onslaught.

Separately, the family of a man who was believed held hostage in Gaza was informed that he was killed, and that his body is being held by Hamas.

In a mourning notice, the family of Yonatan Samarno, 21, said they will hold a ceremony for him later on Monday and begin sitting shiva, the weeklong mourning period.

Announcing the death in an online post, Samarno’s father Kobi wrote the family had received “the hardest news of all.”

Samarno, 21, from Tel Aviv, was at the Nova music festival near Kibbutz Re’im with friends — where Hamas terrorists slaughtered more than 360 people.

When the attack started, he informed his mother that they were heading home, but then contact with him was lost.

Yonatan Samarno (Courtesy)

While the bodies of his two friends were later found, there was no trace of Samarno. His relatives said they had received information he had been shot but his condition was unclear.

The family was later informed that he was most likely among those being held in Gaza.

In recent days, the IDF has confirmed the deaths of several hostages held by Hamas, based on new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.

Israel has vowed to topple Hamas after the October 7 massacres, in which Palestinian terrorists stormed across the border from Gaza and slaughtered some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took around 240 hostages.

The military has begun to expand its operation over the past day into southern Gaza, where it believes Hamas’s leadership is hiding.

Hamas says the Israeli military campaign has killed more than 15,500 people, mostly civilians. The numbers have not been independently verified and are believed to include combatants as well as Palestinian civilians killed by errant rockets launched by terror groups.

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