Israeli Soldiers Killed in West Bank Shooting to Be Buried Friday

Victims named as Staff Sgt. Yuval Mor-Yosef, 19, and Sgt. Yossi Cohen, 20, after gunman opens fire at West Bank hitchhiking station

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Yossi Cohen and Yovel Mor Yosef, who were killed in the shooting attack at Givat Assaf in the West Bank on December 13, 2018.
Yossi Cohen and Yovel Mor Yosef, who were killed in the shooting attack at Givat Assaf in the West Bank on December 13, 2018.Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit

The two soldiers killed in a West Bank terror attack Thursday have been identified as 20-year-old Staff Sgt. Yuval Mor-Yosef and 19-year-old Sgt. Yossi Cohen, both of whom were serving in the same battalion.

The funerals will be held on Friday morning: Cohen’s at the Shamgar funeral home in Jerusalem, and Mor-Yosef’s at the Ashkelon cemetery.

The two served in the Netzach Yehuda battalion of the Kfir infantry brigade and were killed when a gunman opened fire.

Cohen was raised and educated in the largely ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, moving with his family to Beit Shemesh, which also has a large ultra-Orthodox population, a few years ago.

>>West Bank spirals into violence as Hamas ups efforts to orchestrate attacks | Analysis 

Six years ago, he lost his father, after which his mother married Rabbi Eliyahu Meirav. According to Meirav, Cohen’s mother Adele struggled with her son’s decision to enlist, worrying about its efrafect on the rest of the family. Meirav, however, being a former pilot who embraced religion after his military service, supported Cohen’s decision.

Rabbi Meirav established a religious seminary in Tirosh, a small, cooperative farming community near Beit Shemesh. His institution teaches students to go out and work. “He studied with us for a while, and then he wanted to enlist," the rabbi said of his stepson on Thursday.  "I supported that and sent him happily and with love. Last Saturday Yossi told us that he thanked God for giving him the privilege of defending the people of Israel with his body. He was a pure soul.”

Following Cohen's murder, reports claimed that mother had already mourned him when he enlisted, and that the family had turned its back on him. Many ultra-Orthodox Jews oppose members of their communities entering the army.

In a conversation with Haaretz, Cohen's mother denied the reports, stating that last Saturday he ate at home with his family as usual. “These rumors are unspeakably evil and low,” she said. “I don’t know if I can forgive anyone for that. It never happened. I’m amazed at how brazen people can be, lying and inventing things that give people a bad name. I don’t know how anyone could devise such a thing.”

She said there had been no friction regarding her son's decision to join the military. “The reality was that we had embraced religion and he followed another path, and it didn’t suit us," she said. "But a mother is a mother, loving and protective. Recently he did start coming home, just like he did last Shabbat. He was a pure soul, a holy one. He was all good, giving with endless love.”

'He was supposed to come home'

Mor-Yosef’s uncle, Sammy, said that his nephew had been waiting at the bus stop on his way home when he was killed. “It’s hard to grasp," he said. "An evil person murdered him and we demand that the government find and kill him. The terrorist’s death won’t console the parents. We pray that God gives us strength. He insisted on joining a combat unit despite the situation here. This morning, his father spoke with him. He said that he’d finished a night shift, after which he was supposed to come home.”

Omer Negev, a close friend of Mor-Yosef, said the soldier had volunteered for a combat role, even though he wasn’t supposed to be a combat soldier. “He was supposed to come home today after completing his duties, but he was murdered just before going home," his friend said. "This morning he sent a recorded message saying that he was at the junction, and that he loves us.” A family friend added that “he never hurt anyone. He was modest and shy. Enlisting was important to him. He wanted to be a combat soldier. When I asked him, he said: only a combat role.”

Witnesses of Thursday's attack said the terrorist came out of a car, opened fire, and fled. Army spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Menelis said that a preliminary in a car before opening fire at soldiers and civilians waiting at a hitchhiking station. The military has been conducting an extensive manhunt since Thursday at around noon to find the perpetrator or perpetrators. A preliminary investigation indicates that the car escaped towards Ramallah, leading the army to close off the city.

Defense officials believe that the squad that carried out the attack at the entrance to Ofra earlier in the week was also responsible for Thursday’s attack.

Yotam Berger, Yaniv Kubovich, Jack Khoury, and Ido Efrati contributed to this article.