Hundreds Attend Funerals of Soldiers Killed in West Bank Shooting

'You fell on the mission you were sent on. You were a true warrior,' says commander of Sgt. Yossi Cohen ■ Staff Sgt. Yuval Mor-Yosef is being brought to rest in the military cemetery in Ashkelon

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Yuval Mor Yossef's mother at the Ashkelon military cemetery, December 14, 2018
Yuval Mor Yossef's mother at the Ashkelon military cemetery, December 14, 2018Credit: Ilan Assayag

Hundreds of people attended Friday the funerals of the two soldiers killed in a deadly drive-by shooting in the West Bank on Thursday.

The eulogies for Sgt. Yossi Cohen took place in Jerusalem, where he will also be buried. Staff Sgt. Yuval Mor-Yosef was brought to rest in the military cemetery in Ashkelon. 

Cohen’s stepfather, Rabbi Eliyahu Merav, who lost his son-in-law in a terrorist attack in the West Bank nine years ago, eulogized Cohen. “I never believed I would reach this moment. You were totally good, completely pure. Not even 20 years old. You are one of the martyrs. I raised you for a few years, you were all giving and soul. You reached the highest places. Dear Yosef, now you see the senseless hatred that is raging here .... Pray for us from above,” said Merav.

Cohen’s commander in the army, Mati Shevah, said: “You fell on the mission you were sent on. You were a true warrior. You overcame a great deal of difficulties and all of it with joy and a smile. You were always ready to help everyone, even when everyone was tired.”

Cohen's funeral in Jerusalem, December 14, 2018Credit: Oren Ben Hakun

Rabbi Moshe Amar, the chief rabbi of Jerusalem, said that those “who are killed while sanctifying the name of God, no creature can withstand them. Someone who is killed protecting the lives of Jews, we can never understand the level to which he has risen.”

Cohen grew up and was educated in the Haredi city of Bnei Brak in central Israel. He moved with his family to Beit Shemesh a few years ago, and a few months ago they moved to Jerusalem.

Six years ago, he was orphaned from his father, and later his mother remarried. Adel, Cohen’s mother, found it difficult to accept his decision to enlist in the army and was worried about its influence on the rest of the family, said Merav, who served as a pilot before becoming religious after his military service. Merav said he supported Cohen’s decision to enlist in the IDF.

Cohen's funeral in Jerusalem, December 14, 2018Credit: Oren Ben Hakun

Merav is the founder of a yeshiva in Moshav Tirosh near Beit Shemesh, which he says teaches its students to go out and work. “He studied with us for a period of time, and after that wanted to enlist. I reinforced [his desire to enlist], supported it and sent him on his way with happiness and love,” said Merav.

“Last Shabbat, Yossi told us: ‘I thank [God] for granting me to protect the people of Israel with my body.’ A pure soul.”

Mor-Yosef’s uncle, Sami, 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 night duty, after which he was supposed to come home.”

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

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.”

Another soldier and a female civilian were wounded in the shooting. The soldier, 21, suffered severe head trauma and is in life-threatening condition. The woman's condition is improving and she is expected to be moved to a regular ward later on Friday.

Earlier Friday, an Israeli soldier was seriously wounded during a confrontation with a Palestinian in a military outpost near the West Bank settlement of Beit El.

According to the Israeli army, a struggle erupted between the soldier and the Palestinian after the latter crossed the West Bank barrier, reached the outpost and attacked the soldier with a rock and a knife.

After stabbing the soldier and hitting him with a rock, the Palestinian fled the scene and the soldier was evacuated to a hospital for medical care. He is currently sedated and intubated. Israeli security forces are canvassing the area for the assailant, who is also believed to have been wounded in the exchange.

Forty suspects were arrested Thursday overnight, according to the Israeli army, with 37 said to be Hamas activists. In a joint operation with the Border Police, Shin Bet and Israel Police, the suspects were detained for suspected involvement in terrorist activity and rioting.

>> West Bank spirals into violence as Hamas ups efforts to orchestrate attacks | Analysis ■ Netanyahu's two greatest fears have suddenly materialized | Analysis

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Hamas on Thursday that Israel won't have a Gaza cease-fire if terrorism in the West Bank continues, a senior official said.

The military has sealed off Ramallah and set up roadblocks throughout the area. Most of the activity was centered around Ayoush Square, near the entrance to Ramallah.

Israeli defense officials increasingly believe that the Hamas cell responsible for last week's attack near the West Bank settlement of Ofra is also behind today's attack. 

Netanyahu also said he would legalize thousands of Jewish homes in the West Bank, hours after two Israeli soldiers were killed and two others were wounded in a shooting attack.

The Prime Minister's Office said it would promote the construction of 82 new housing units in the settlement of Ofra, as well as two new industrial zones near the settlements of Avnei Hefetz and Betar Ilit.

Netanyahu, who is also defense minister, ordered the military to expedite the demolition of terrorists' homes to within 48 hours after an attack.

"Our guiding principle is that whoever attacks us and whoever tries to attack us will pay with his life," Netanyahu said. "Our enemies know this and we will find them," he said, adding that "we will settle accounts with whoever did this."

Netanyahu also ordered an increased presence of Israeli forces in the West Bank, the detention of Hamas operatives in the area, the placement of roadblocks and the denial of permits for terrorists’ families to stay in Israel.

Netanyahu did not specify which buildings the order applies to; that is, whether they are built on state land. Nor did he discuss how he intends to legalize them. The Justice Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office are looking into ways to legalize outposts and existing structures in settlements.

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