Second Lt. Hadar Goldin, who was presumed to have been captured by Hamas on Friday, was declared dead by the IDF early Sunday morning.
Goldin’s unit was investigating a Hamas tunnel on Friday when terrorists emerged and engaged the IDF troops in a fierce firefight. It is unclear whether Goldin was killed by the Hamas suicide bomber whose body was found near where Goldin was last seen, or by an Israeli strike.
A special panel headed by Chief Military Rabbi Brig. Gen. Rafi Peretz announced Goldin’s death, saying the conclusion was reached “based on forensic evidence from the scene of the attack.”
Two other Israeli soldiers were killed in the attack. The incident occurred during a breach of the humanitarian ceasefire declared a few hours earlier between Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza.
On Friday morning, soldiers from the Givati Brigade’s special forces company advanced toward a tunnel opening near the outskirts of Rafah, 2.5 kilometers from Israeli territory. The tunnel was buttressed by reinforced concrete on both sides; defense officials said it had been dug into Israel with the intent of carrying out a terror attack.
Some members of the company, including the commander, Maj. Benaya Sarel, his radioman Staff Sgt. Liel Gidoni and squad leader Goldin approached the structure housing the tunnel opening. As the rest of the soldiers went around the other side of an adjacent building, combatants opened fire on Sarel, Gidoni and Goldin.
The other soldiers reported that this was “heavy fire.” A few minutes later, additional forces arrived and discovered that Sarel and Gidoni had been killed, and that next to their bodies was the body of a militant who had presumably detonated an explosive belt.
Later, the soldiers realized that squad leader Goldin was missing and the deputy company commander decided to advance toward the building and enter the tunnel. The tunnel included corridors, one of them leading to a mosque to the east. Another shaft was found leading to a Hamas bunker.
While there is sorrow over the death of the young IDF reservist, many Israelis are relieved that Hamas has been denied a valuable bargaining chip. You may recall the incident involving another young reservist, Gilad Shalit, who was captured by Hamas in 2006 and was held for five excruciating years. Finally, in 2011, Israel struck a deal — Shalit for 1027 Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails. Many of those released had participated in terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens.
The war against Hamas continues with Israel refusing to talk a cease-fire until it’s good and ready. That may not be for a while as the IDF pummels Hamas positions in Gaza. They have redeployed some forces on the border, but there appears to be no let-up in Israel’s attacks.