Military chief Aviv Kohavi on Monday visited two soldiers seriously wounded in a gun battle while trying to capture terror group members in the northern West Bank on Sunday.
Members of the Duvdevan counter-terrorism unit, Captain “Daled” and Sergeant first-class “Yud,” identified only by their Hebrew first name initial, were transported by helicopter to Haifa’s Rambam Health Care Campus for treatment early Sunday morning.
“Your sons are warriors, as is their character. They acted in the operation while showing great courage and fearlessness,” Kohavi told their families, according to a statement from the Israel Defense Forces.
Five Palestinian suspects were killed in the raids, which targeted alleged members of a Hamas cell in the West Bank, preventing a major terror attack, officials said.
“It is important for you to know that if we had not stopped this network, of the Hamas terror organization, they would have been at an advanced stage and would have carried out attacks in Israeli cities,” the IDF chief said.
“Your sons prevented these attacks,” he added.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz also visited the wounded troops and their families on Monday.
The IDF was investigating the circumstances in which the two soldiers were seriously injured and increasingly believes that they were hit by friendly fire after a Palestinian gunman opened fire at them in Burqin near Jenin.
Military officials were reportedly considering awarding a citation to the paramedic who used an unorthodox lifesaving treatment on the soldiers after the gun battle.
The 21-year-old decided not to conduct resuscitation on the wounded sergeant in contravention to military’s guidelines, a senior medical officer told the Ynet news site.
“Resuscitation here would have led to heavy pressure on the lungs and would have worsened his condition,” the unnamed officer was quoted as saying.
The senior officer said that the paramedic’s treatment was a “dramatic flagship event,” and that without his decision, “we would have been on our way to funerals.”
The hospital said Monday morning that both soldiers’ conditions had improved. One has begun communicating with his surroundings and was to be removed from artificial respiration later in the day.
The other was expected to undergo further surgeries on Monday. Both were still listed in serious condition.
According to the IDF, at least seven suspected members of the Hamas cell were arrested during arrest raids overnight Saturday, and at least five other suspected terrorists were killed after they opened fire at IDF troops. Five guns were also confiscated in the raids, along with large amounts of ammunition. Several other members of the group had been arrested on the preceding nights.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett confirmed that the Hamas cell was planning to carry out terror attacks imminently.
“Security forces acted tonight in Judea and Samaria against Hamas terrorists who were poised to carry out terror attacks in the immediate future,” Bennett said in a statement, en route to New York to speak at the United Nations General Assembly, using the biblical term for the West Bank.
The IDF also believes some members of the Hamas cell are still on the loose. In total, some 20 suspected members of the cell have been arrested in recent days, according to the military.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.