Two reservists killed in north Gaza, as soldiers slain in Rafah blast named

Tank hit by explosive, killing Cpt. (res.) Eitan Koplovich and Warrant Officer (res.) Elon Weiss, wounding two others seriously

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Cpt. (res.) Eitan Koplovich (left) and Warrant Officer (res.) Elon Weiss, killed in the Gaza Strip on June 15, 2024. (Courtesy)
Cpt. (res.) Eitan Koplovich (left) and Warrant Officer (res.) Elon Weiss, killed in the Gaza Strip on June 15, 2024. (Courtesy)

Two reservists were killed when their tank came under attack in northern Gaza over the weekend, the military announced Sunday, as soldiers slain in a separate blast in the Strip’s south were named.

Cpt. (res.) Eitan Koplovich, 28, from Jerusalem, and Warrant Officer (res.) Elon Weiss, 49, from Psagot, were killed by an explosive device detonated against their tank, an initial probe found.

Both soldiers served in the 8th Reserve Armored Brigade’s 129th Battalion,

Two other soldiers in the tank were seriously wounded by the blast, the Israel Defense Forces said.

Their deaths brought the toll of slain troops in the ground offensive against Hamas and amid operations along the Gaza border to 311. The toll includes a police officer killed in a hostage rescue mission. A civilian Defense Ministry contractor was also killed in the Strip.

Also Sunday morning, the IDF released the names of seven of the eight combat engineers killed in a blast in southern Gaza’s Rafah on Saturday morning, in the deadliest incident for the military in the Strip in six months.

The soldiers were named as:

Sgt. Eliyahu Moshe Zimbalist, 21, from Beit Shemesh; Sgt. Itay Amar, 19, from Kochav Yair; Staff Sgt. Stanislav Kostarev, 21, from Ashdod; Staff Sgt. Orr Blumovitz, 20, from Pardes Hanna-Karkur; Staff Sgt. Oz Yeshaya Gruber, 20, from Tal Menashe; Sgt. Yakir Ya’akov Levi, 21, from Hafetz Haim; and Sgt. Shalom Menachem, from Beit El.

Eight Israeli soldiers killed in a blast in southern Gaza’s Rafah on June 15, 2024: L-R top: Sgt. Eliyahu Moshe Zimbalist, Sgt. Itay Amar, Staff Sgt. Stanislav Kostarev, Sgt. Shalom Menachem; bottom: Staff Sgt. Or Blumovitz, Staff Sgt. Oz Yeshaya Gruber, Cpt. Wassem Mahmoud, Sgt. Yakir Ya’akov Levi

On Saturday, the IDF named the first of the eight troops: Cpt. Wassem Mahmoud, 23, a deputy company commander in the 601st Battalion, from Beit Jann.

According to an initial IDF probe the troops, all from the Combat Engineering Corps’ 601st Battalion, were killed inside a Namer armored combat engineering vehicle (CEV) that came under attack by an explosive device or an anti-tank missile. There were no survivors.

Separately on Saturday, an IDF soldier seriously wounded earlier in the week in  Rafah succumbed to his wounds, the military announced.

He was named as Sgt. Yair Roitman, 19, of the Givati Brigade’s reconnaissance unit, from Karnei Shomron.

Roitman was wounded in a blast in a booby-trapped building on June 10, in an incident that killed four other soldiers and wounded six, including four seriously.

Sgt. Yair Roitman (Israel Defense Forces)

The war in Gaza erupted with the October 7 massacre in southern Israel, during which thousands of Hamas-led terrorists burst across the border into Israel, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 251 hostages, most of them civilians.

The Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip says that more than 37,000 people have been killed in the Palestinian enclave since October 7, although this number cannot be verified and does not differentiate between civilians and combatants, of whom Israel says it has killed some 15,000 in battle.

The IDF has also said that some 1,000 terrorists were killed inside Israel on October 7.

Israel has vowed to eliminate Hamas and destroy its military and governing capabilities to ensure it no longer poses a threat to Israel, but is also involved in indirect talks with the terror group aimed at an extended truce and the release of the 116 hostages believed to still be held by the group, dozens of whom are thought dead. Hamas has also been holding two Israeli civilians who entered the Strip in 2014 and 2015, as well as the bodies of two IDF soldiers who were killed in 2014.

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