Army Chief Aviv Kohavi on Monday visited two soldiers who were seriously wounded in a gun battle while trying to capture members of the terror group in the northern West Bank on Sunday.
Members of Dovdevan’s Counter-Terrorism Unit, Captain “Daled” and Sergeant First Class “Yod,” identified only by their first Hebrew first name, were flown by helicopter to the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa for treatment early Sunday morning.
“Your sons are warriors, as is their character. They acted in the operation showing great courage and fearlessness,” Kochavi told their families, according to a statement from the IDF.
Officials said five Palestinian suspects were killed in the raids that targeted alleged members of a Hamas cell in the West Bank, preventing a major terrorist attack.
“It is important for you to know that if we had not stopped this network, which is affiliated with the Hamas terrorist organization, they would have reached an advanced stage and would have carried out attacks in Israeli cities,” the Israeli army chief said.
He added: “Your sons prevented these attacks.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz also visited the wounded soldiers and their families on Monday.
The Israeli army was investigating the circumstances of the two soldiers being seriously wounded and increasingly believed to have been hit by friendly fire after a Palestinian gunman opened fire on them in Burqin, near Jenin.
Military officials were reportedly considering awarding martyrdom to a medic who used unorthodox life-saving treatment for soldiers after a gunfight.
A senior medical official told the Ynet news website that the 21-year-old had decided not to perform CPR for the wounded sergeant, in contravention of Army guidelines.
The unnamed officer was quoted as saying: “The resuscitation here would have put too much pressure on the lungs and would have worsened his condition.”
The senior officer said the paramedic’s treatment was a “major dramatic event,” and that without his decision, “we were on our way to funerals.”
The hospital said Monday morning that conditions for the two soldiers had improved. One began to communicate with his surroundings and was due to be removed from artificial respiration later in the day.
The other is expected to undergo more surgeries on Monday. Both were listed in serious condition.
According to the IDF, at least seven suspected members of the Hamas cell were arrested during Saturday night’s arrest raids, and at least five other suspected terrorists were killed after they opened fire on IDF forces. Five rifles and large quantities of ammunition were also confiscated in the raids. Several members of the group had been arrested the previous nights.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett confirmed that the Hamas cell was planning to carry out imminent terrorist attacks.
Bennett said in a statement, on his way to New York to speak at the United Nations General Assembly, using the biblical term for the West Bank.
The IDF also believes that some members of the Hamas cell are still at large. In total, about 20 suspected cell members have been arrested in recent days, according to the military.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.