Seventeen IDF soldiers were killed and scores wounded in Gaza on Saturday, while terrorist rockets continued to rain down on population centers in Israel throughout the weekend.
The Israel Defense Forces “substantially expanded” its operations in Gaza on Saturday and Sunday, with the goals of continuing to dismantle terrorist tunnels into Israel and destroying the Hamas infrastructure, according to an IDF spokesman.
The 17 soldiers who were killed in Gaza on Saturday and early Sunday brought the total number of Israeli military fatalities to 18 since the start of the ground offensive on Thursday night.
Thirteen soldiers from the Golani brigade were killed overnight in fighting in the Shejaiyah section of Gaza City. The families of the dead have been notified, but their names have not yet been released.
Four fallen soldiers on Saturday whose names were released include Maj. (res.) Amotz Greenberg, 45, and Sgt. Adar Barsano, 20, were killed after a Hamas terror cell infiltrated Israel through a tunnel and opened fire on an IDF patrol. On Saturday evening, a Hamas gunman emerged from a tunnel in southern Gaza and opened fire on IDF soldiers, killing Sgt. Bnaya Rubel, 20, of Holon, and injuring another soldier. 2nd-Lt. Bar Rahav, 21, from Ramat Yishai, serving in the Engineering Corps, was killed as a result of the activation of the Trophy missile defense system in a nearby tank. The IDF is investigating the cause of the tragedy.
The funerals of the four soldiers who died Saturday and 1st Sgt. Eitan Barak, who was killed overnight Thursday, were scheduled to be held in their home towns on Sunday.
The growing conflict has seen an increase in activities by Chabad-Lubavitch representatives and organizations in Israel on behalf of soldiers and citizens alike. Chabad leaders spoke of the “urgent mobilization” of emissaries and volunteers, who have been working around the clock to strengthen and encourage the spirit of residents and soldiers deployed in combat areas.
Rabbi Amitai Yemini, director of the Chabad Israel Center in Los Angeles, left, and Rabbi Menachem Kutner, director of the Chabad Terror Victims Project, visited with Mordechai Yemin, a wounded soldier. (Photo: CTVP)
At least 51 Israeli soldiers, some seriously injured, are in Israeli hospitals. Working closely with IDF and hospital officials, staff and volunteers from the Chabad Terror Victims Project visited the wounded, who had been taken to the Tel HaShomer hospital in Ramat Gan. While visiting many of the newly injured, they brought a computer to Mordechai Yemin, so he could communicate with his family; Yemin was the first soldier hospitalized last week and was immediately visited by CTVP volunteers.
Following the hospital visit, CTVP staff drove to Ashkelon, where, along with Rabbi Menachem Lieberman, co-director of Chabad of Ashkelon, and Rabbi Moshe Vilenkin, they visited children in five bomb shelters, bringing them toys and gifts. They also helped entertain the kids, who have been in and out of shelters now for two weeks.
After that, they headed to the Gaza border, where due to a temporary ceasefire they were permitted to visit with troops, bringing them shampoo and other items that had been specifically requested by the IDF.
“From where I’m standing, we can see straight into Gaza, alongside the tanks,” said Rabbi Yossi Swerdlov of CTVP. “In addition to delivering supplies, we’re putting on tefillin with the troops. Several soldiers told us, ‘You have no idea how much this means to us.’ We hope all these boys come home safe.”
Rabbi Menashe Perman, director of Chabad of Chile, helps a soldier don tefillin. (Photo: CTVP)
Encouraging Prayer and Good Deeds
Meanwhile, emissaries are joining together with thousands of Chabad households in the southern towns to provide whatever spiritual and material means they can provide to lift the spirits of soldiers and individuals living near Gaza, according to Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Aharonov, director the Lubavitch Youth Organization in Israel.
Aharonov emphasized the importance of encouraging Jewish men everywhere to don tefillin, pointing to the “Tefillin Campaign” launched by the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, before the Six-Day War in 1967, noting that: “The nations of the world will see that the name of G‑d is called upon you, and they will fear you.” (Deuteronomy 28:10)
Throughout the world, Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis have been continuing nonstop in their encouragement of prayer and good deeds on behalf of the Israeli soldiers and all people threatened by ongoing missile attacks, while maintaining a positive spirit, reminding them of what the Rebbe said about the Jewish nation: “Regarding Israel, the Torah states that it is a ‘land upon which G‑d has His eyes at all times.’ ”
Rabbi Yitzchok Minkowitz, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Southwest Florida, left, and Rabbi Menashe Perman, director of Chabad of Chile volunteered with Chabad Terror Victims Project staff to deliver packages to troops before Shabbat. (Photo: CTVP)