Two IDF soldiers were killed on Friday in an incident near Kibbutz Kissufim on the Gaza border: Major Eliraz Peretz, 31, from Eli, and Staff Sergeant Ilan Sviatkovsky, 21, from Rishon Letzion. Two other soldiers were injured in the incident, one seriously and one lightly.
A unit of Golani troops crossed the border into Gaza in pursuit of a gang of terrorists who were planting explosives along the border, in an effort to ambush IDF patrols. Soldiers feared that the terrorists, taking advantage of the poor weather, would try to infiltrate the border and sneak into Israel in order to carry out terror attacks against Israeli civilians. An IDF investigation said that the terrorists got close to the soldiers and were able to shoot at them from close range in the fog, with one bullet apparently hitting a hand grenade one of the soldiers was carrying. The grenade exploded, killing the two soldiers. Two of the terrorists were killed, as well.
IDF Southern Forces Commander Yoav Gallant and Gaza Unit commander Eyal Eisenberg arrived on the scene shortly after the incident.
Several hours after the incident, IDF troops observed another group of terrorists planting explosives along the border. Tanks fired at these terrorists, hitting and eliminating two of them. Another terrorist was eliminated a short time later by IAF fire when he, too, was caught planting explosives. IDF patrols operated overnight Friday, destroying several buildings and other infrastructure the terrorists were using to attack soldiers.
An IDF investigation has concluded that the soldiers acted properly, the army said Saturday night. Gallant told reporters that “the terrorists were attempting to plant explosives along the border. Soldiers observed the terrorists' activities and crossed the border as required,” he said. Eisenberg said that “these kind of incidents occur almost daily, unfortunately. IDF troops act to defend civilians, in this case the residents of towns near the border. Such actions are undertaken on both sides of the border, by ground troops and tanks, both in open and secret operations. Unfortunately we paid a heavy price on Friday. We support the families and express our grief at what occurred. The IDF will continue to do what it needs to protect residents of Israel.
Eliraz, who was the regiment's deputy commander, is the second member of the Peretz family to be killed in battle. On November 25, 1998, Peretz's brother, Uriel, was killed when his Golani unit was attempting to neutralize several explosive devices planted by Hizbullah terrorists in northern Israel. His widowed mother lives in Givat Zeev, a northern suburb of Jerusalem. He has four surviving siblings.
Eliraz left a wife and four children, including a two month old infant.
Ilan Sviatkovsky left parents and a brother. He was close to the end of his army service.