The commanding officer of the Nahal Infantry Brigade, Col. Jonathan Steinberg, was killed on Saturday during clashes with Hamas terrorists in the Kerem Shalom area near the border with the Gaza Strip, the military announced.
The Israel Defense Forces said Steinberg, 42, from the southern town of Shomria, was en route to the site of clashes being managed by his subordinates when he encountered a terrorist who killed him.
He was the most senior official confirmed dead in the fighting as of Saturday night, and one of the most senior officers to have been killed in combat in recent memory.
The Gaza-based terror group launched an unprecedented assault on Israel in the morning, firing thousands of rockets and sending hundreds of gunmen into Israeli communities by land, sea and air, killing at least 250 people and injuring over 1,500 by midnight.
The multi-pronged attack, coming a day after Israel marked the 50th anniversary of the surprise invasion on Yom Kippur, caught the Israeli military and security forces completely by surprise.
Hamas gunmen overran at least one military base and gunmen moved through Israeli border communities, killing and capturing residents, apparently with little resistance from Israeli forces, residents said.
Other clips circulated online have purported to show Israeli civilians taken hostage by the terror group. Arabic media claimed 52 Israelis had been captured. Some of those captured appeared to have been killed.
The infiltration of fighters into southern Israel marked a major accomplishment — and escalation — by Hamas that forced millions of Israelis to hunker down in safe rooms, sheltering from rocket explosions and ongoing gun battles with Hamas fighters. Cities and towns emptied as the military closed roads near Gaza.
The Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip said 232 Palestinians were killed and another 1,697 were wounded as of Saturday afternoon. Most of those were apparently killed in the Gaza Strip as a result of Israel’s retaliatory strikes.
The IDF said it killed hundreds of Palestinian terrorists in Israel and in strikes in the Gaza Strip.