JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli soldier killed on the border with Gaza by sniper fire was identified as Aviv Levi, 21, of the central Israel city of Petah Tikva.
Levi is the first Israeli soldier killed in fighting on the Gaza border since the 2014 Gaza War known as Operation Protective Edge.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night in a statement offered condolences to Levi’s family on the death of the IDF Givati Brigade soldier.
“Together with his comrades, Aviv fought with determination and heroism against terror from the Gaza Strip. To our sorrow, this struggle sometimes claims a price that is heavy for us to bear. Our hearts are with the family,” the statement said.
Levi was the oldest of four siblings. His parents and his two younger siblings were vacationing in Italy when he was killed, the Times of Israel reported. The family requested no media coverage of the funeral that was scheduled to begin at noon on Sunday.
Hundreds of mourners, many soldiers wearing the purple Givati brigade beret, attended the funeral at Segula cemetery in Petah Tikva, according to Ynet.
“It is not easy to eulogize my son. It’s not natural,” said his father, Yaakov, Ynet reported. “You were a ray of shining and smiling sun for us. We loved seeing every moment of you becoming the man that we knew. You were the salt of the earth and paid the ultimate price for your outstanding service.”
“You never avoided any mission, however large or small. You guarded and protected your friends. We are not parting here. You will be with us forever,” the father said.
In response to the sniper fire that killed Levi, Israel responded with two rounds of heavy airstrikes across the Gaza Strip. The first killed four members of Hamas, the terror group that governs Gaza. The second barrage was heavier, striking 68 military targets, including 15 in a headquarters compound in northern Gaza with munitions stores, training sites and command posts, according to the Israel Defense Forces.
Hamas announced on Saturday morning that it had agreed to a ceasefire with Israel following the heavy bombardment, after pressure from Egypt and the United Nations, Ynet reported.
Staff Sergeant Aviv Levi, a platoon sergeant in the Givati Brigade, was shot and killed yesterday during operational activity in the southern Gaza Strip. He was 21 years old. pic.twitter.com/9jiDF3lIyF
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) July 21, 2018