A pair of Israeli soldiers killed in a terror shooting in the central West Bank were identified on Thursday evening as Staff Sgt. Yovel Mor Yosef, 20, and Sgt. Yosef Cohen, 19.
Mor Yosef was from the southern city of Ashkelon. Cohen was a resident of Beit Shemesh. Both were members of the Kfir Brigade’s Netzah Yehuda infantry battalion, a unit for religious soldiers.
The army said Mor Yosef and Cohen were posthumously promoted from the ranks of sergeant and corporal respectively after they were killed by gunfire in the attack outside the Givat Assaf settlement outpost.
Mor Yosef’s funeral will be held at the Ashkelon military cemetery at 11:00 a.m. on Friday. Cohen will be buried in Jerusalem at 10:30 a.m. on Friday morning.
A third soldier was critically injured in the shooting and underwent surgery for a gunshot wound to the head at Hadassah Hospital Ein Karem in Jerusalem on Thursday. A civilian woman was also seriously wounded.
Mor Yosef’s uncle told reporters his nephew was supposed to return home Thursday, but volunteered to remain with his unit to give other soldiers time off.
“His life goal was to serve in a combat unit. This is what he did and wanted. He really enjoyed serving, [he] contributed and volunteered,” Sami Mor Yosef said.
After Mor Yosef was named as one of the slain soldiers, Hebrew media reports played an audio message he sent to a friend Thursday morning before the attack.
“If you pass by Givat Assaf don’t forget me, bro. I love you,” Mor Yosef said in the prescient recording.
Rabbi Eliyahu Merav, Cohen’s stepfather, described his stepson as a “beautiful and pure soul” and shared a story from his last visit home.
“When we sat for the Shabbat meal and each person gave thanks for something, Yossi said: ‘I thank God I have the privilege to defend the people of Israel,'” Merav told Channel 10 news.
“They were such sweet boys, always wore smiles on their faces,” said Rabbi David Fuchs, who is affiliated with the battalion and was acquainted with the soldiers. “Their friends loved and admired them; they were friends with everyone.”
“To hear that guys like that, boys who were so full of energy, happy, upbeat, have fallen is indescribably painful. I met now with their friends; everyone is in terrible shock. The anguish causes them to focus now even more intensely on their duties. The residents of the settlement where they fell loved them and shared a close relationship with them,” he said.
Thursday’s shooting came amid a rash of recent attacks, including a drive-by shooting Sunday outside the Ofra settlement in which seven Israelis were injured. Among the wounded was a pregnant woman whose baby was delivered by an emergency C-section but died on Wednesday.
Also Thursday, Border Police shot and killed a Palestinian in Jerusalem’s Old City who stabbed two officers, lightly wounding them.
The army said another Palestinian tried to ram his car into soldiers outside Ramallah, though defense officials told Channel 10 news it appeared not to have been an attack. The Palestinian driver was shot dead by Israeli troops.
The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry spokesman Osama Najjar identified the driver as 58-year-old Hamdan al-Arda. Najjar told the Times of Israel that Arda, who was a resident of Araba, a village in the northern West Bank, was the owner of an aluminum company in al-Bireh and was shot dead by Israeli forces meters away from his business’s headquarters
The West Bank has seen an increase in the number of attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers in recent weeks, after months of relative calm in the area, raising concerns of a potential renewed outbreak of regular, serious violence in the region.
The military blamed the increase in attacks both on terror groups’ ongoing efforts, the “copycat” phenomenon and a number of significant dates coming up this week, notably the anniversary of the Hamas terror group’s founding.
On Wednesday night, the Israeli military arrested a number of suspects who were believed to have carried out Sunday night’s shooting attack and shot dead a third, who security officials said tried to attack Israeli troops during an escape attempt.
A Palestinian who shot dead two Israelis in a West Bank terror attack in October at the Barkan industrial zone was also killed early Thursday during a shootout with IDF troops.
Judah Ari Gross, Adam Rasgon contributed to the report.