Hundreds Attend Funeral of Israeli Soldier Killed in West Bank Raid

Staff Sgt. Ronen Lubarsky, 20, was killed when Palestinians dropped a stone slab on his head ■ Deputy defense minister: ‘We will not rest until we catch those who attacked you – dead or alive’

Soldiers bearing the coffin of Staff. Sgt. Ronen Lubarsky at the funeral Saturday night.
Olivier Fitoussi

Hundreds of people attended the funeral of Staff Sgt. Ronen Lubarsky at the military cemetery on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem on Saturday night.

Lubarsky, a 20-year-old soldier from the IDF's elite Duvdevan unit, died on Saturday from injuries he suffered during a military raid on a West Bank refugee to arrest wanted suspects early Thursday morning. Lubarsky was critically injured when Palestinians dropped a heavy stone slab on his head from the third floor of a building during the raid.

Ronen Lubarsky, 21, died of his wounds, May 26, 2018.
Screenshot from Lubarsky's Facebook page.

Arik Lubarsky, Ronen’s brother, eulogized him: “My dear brother, how have we reached this strange situation, tell me? You were so modest. Everyone is talking about you, everyone loves you, what a hero you are, how you are the best.”

He added: “Unfortunately, IDF soldiers deal with the threats you overcame every day, every night. .. Wild animals were waiting for you on the rooftops. I pray to God that our leaders, who I love, will do something about it.”

A., the commander of Duvdevan, also spoke. He said Lubarsky was taught the value of contributing to his country, a member of a family of fighters, the salt of the earth. “During the hours we prayed at your bedside in the hospital, your mother pointed to the members of the family and said: ‘Combat soldiers every one, but Ronen was the best.’ Your mother was right. You were one of the best soldiers in the unit.” A. said Lubarsky participated in a great number of operations to capture terrorists and stood at the IDF’s “spearhead against terrorism,” and “fell as a hero in an operation to defend the citizens of Israel Rest in peace. We are proud of your acts, pained and salute you.”

Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan spoke about Lubarsky at the funeral too. “I call on the Arabs living in Judea and Samaria: You can choose the path of peace and benefit from the prosperity. But those who choose the path of terror and murder – know you will run into a fortified wall.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed sorrow over the news of Lubarsky's death on Saturday. "I send heartfelt condolences to his family," Netanyahu said Saturday evening. "The security forces will catch the terrorist and the State of Israel will bring him to justice."

The unit that carried out the raid at the al-Am’ari Refugee Camp near Ramallah was unable to shoot at or pursue the attacker as they could not identify who had thrown the slab.

The first set of Israeli forces that arrived at the site for the raid was undercover and surrounded the building where the wanted men were located. A larger force of the Duvdevan unit equipped with full protective gear arrived afterwards, including Lubarsky.

The military said the raid, which targeted members of a cell involved in recent terrorist attacks and shootings against Israelis, took place after intelligence information indicated the wanted men intended on carrying out another attack soon. The forces surrounded the buildings where the wanted men were thought to be hiding. A suspect was arrested during the raid and two other suspects were arrested later in the day. The suspects had been transferred to the Shin Bet security service for questioning.

After being attacked, Lubarsky was evacuated to the Hadassah University Hospital in Ein Karem in Jerusalem, and was sedated and on a respirator for two days, before succumbing to his injuries on Saturday. Though he was wearing full protective gear at the time of the incident, the impact of the slab shattered his helmet and caused a severe blow to his head.

Duvdevan is an elite special forces unit which carries out the largest number of anti-terrorism operations in the West Bank, and the unit has made over 150 arrests of Palestinians suspected of involvement in terrorism since the beginning of this year.

Lubarsky's death brings the amount of fallen Duvdevan soldiers to 18 since the unit was established in 1986. Most of the fallen soldiers were killed in training accidents or as a result of friendly fire during an operation – none of them were killed by enemy fire. Some of the soldiers who were killed served in an intelligence unit attached to Duvdevan in recent years, but were killed before the two units were combined.