The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday evening announced the deaths of two more soldiers fighting Hamas in the Gaza Strip, raising the death toll in the ground offensive to 89.
They were named as Master Sgt. (res.) Gal Meir Eisenkot, 25, of the 551st Brigade’s 699th Battalion, from Herzliya, and Sgt. Maj. (res.) Jonathan David Deitch, 34, of the 55th Brigade’s 6623rd Reconnaissance Battalion, from Harish.
The IDF said Eisenkot was killed in northern Gaza while Deitch was killed during a battle in the southern Strip. It also said three other troops were seriously injured in fighting and brought to hospitals for medical treatment.
Eisenkot is the son of Minister Gadi Eisenkot, a former IDF chief of staff who is now a minister in the emergency government on behalf of Benny Gantz’s National Unity party and an observer on the high-level war cabinet leading the decision-making in the Gaza campaign.
The elder Eisenkot received the news of his son’s death while observing IDF operations at the 162nd Division’s headquarters in southern Israel, alongside Gantz earlier Thursday.
Gal Eisenkot was killed after a bomb exploded in a tunnel shaft near soldiers in the Jabaliya camp in northern Gaza. He was rushed in grave condition to a hospital in Israel, where he died of his injuries.
He was slated to be buried Friday in Herzliya.
Channel 12 news cited former IDF intelligence chief Tamir Hayman as saying: “At the start of the war Gadi told me he intended to manage the war as though his son was at the front of the military campaign and his daughter was kidnapped in Gaza. And then he noted in his direct, solemn style: ‘My daughter isn’t kidnapped, but my son is at the front.'”
Politicians from across the political spectrum expressed their condolences to Eisenkot and mourned his son’s death.
“Our hearts are broken. On the eve of Hanukkah, Gal’s candle was extinguished,” Gantz said in a statement, referring to the Jewish holiday of lights that begins Thursday evening. “We are all committed to continue fighting for the sacred mission in whose name Gal fell.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu eulogized Gal Eisenkot as “a brave warrior and true hero.”
“Our heroes did not fall for nothing. We will continue until victory,” the premier said.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said: “May we be worthy of Gal’s sacrifice, and of all those who fell in this just war.”
Noting his decades-long military career, President Isaac Herzog said Gadi Eisenkot had “dedicated his whole life to Israel’s security, the IDF and the country and he and his family are now paying an unbearable price.”
“Gal was educated since his childhood on love for the nation and the homeland and acted in this spirit all the time, including when he was killed,” Herzog added. “Along with the entire nation, I embrace the bereaved Israeli families, whose sacrifice is heavy and unbearably tough, and pledge: We will continue to guard our people and beloved country, for them and ourselves.”
Opposition leader Yair Lapid shared a photo of Gadi and Gal Eisenkot embracing in uniform when the former was chief of staff and the latter was a conscript soldier.
“The two of them answer the call, show up when they are needed, do what they need to do. The fate of an entire country in one embrace,” Lapid wrote on X.
There was no immediate statement from Eisenkot, who according to Channel 12 news noted that his son was fighting in Gaza during National Unity’s most recent faction meeting.
“There is a moral majority here to bring back our hostages because of our huge failure, and I think that we need to make a supreme effort and pay tough prices to return them. There will be prices on the battlefield, but soldiers endanger their lives for citizens — not the opposite,” Eisenkot was quoted as the network by saying in a recent conversation.
The IDF announced the deaths of Eisenkot and Deitch amid heavy fighting in Gaza, as Israeli forces push into major Hamas strongholds in the northern and southern parts of the coastal enclave.
The war in Gaza was triggered when Hamas terrorists stormed across the border on October 7, killing around 1,200 people in Israel, mostly civilians, and taking 240 hostage, some 140 of whom are believed to still be held in the Strip.