Burial Place of Five Tel Arish Casualties has been Located
14 August 2007 , 10:30
Journalist briefing concerning the burial place of the soldiers who fell during the battle of Tel Arish
Journalist briefing concerning the burial place of the soldiers who fell during the battle of Tel Arish. Photo: Yoni Markovitzki, IDF Spokesperson
59 years after the bloody battle on the Pillbox hill and following a complex, continuous, and strenuous investigation, the investigators of the Branch for the Location of Missing Persons at the Casualties Department in the Human Resources Branch, succeeded in locating the burial place of five soldiers from Givati Brigade's Battalion 52 who were lost in the battle.

The investigation lasted many years and included a collection of evidence, data gathering, and more, and reached its final conclusions with the aid of a special laboratory for the identification of DNA samples in the United States. In meeting held yesterday, the investigative work of the Branch for the Location of Missing Persons was presented to the head of the Human Resources Branch, Major General Elazar Stern, and the Chief Military Rabbi, Brigadier General Avichai Rontzki. Major General Stern approved the conclusions presented to him, and thus the burial place of the five fallen combat soldiers was determined.

The intense investigation which yielded the conclusions was commanded and managed by the head of the Branch for the Location of Missing Persons, Lieutenant Colonel Orli Cohen Gefen and the officers and investigators of the unit, Giora Adrat and Amir Rosenberg, joined by professor Ailon Peres, an expert in genetics.

The names of the five casualties whose burial place has been located are: Lieutenant Yechiel (Hilik) Rosenfeld zl, Private David Kochavi zl, Private Yitzhak Hamami zl, Private Yehoshua (Yashke) Lostig zl, and Private Menachem Kelerman zl.

Killed while protecting the Pillbox – the story of the battle

The Pillbox Post at Tel Arish controlled Holon junction and prevented the passage of Israeli vehicles to the south and to Jerusalem. As part of Operation "Hametz", launched to tighten the Jewish siege on Arabic Jaffa, the Arab villages in the area (Slama, Skia, Hiria, and Yazor) were conquered, and a force of the battalion was allocated to conquer the post at Tel Arish.

The battalion commander, Ya'akov Prolov (Pri) zl, prepared a plan of attack, according to which three companies will be sent out of Mikve Israel and will be joined by an armored procession in the area of the village of Tel Arish, south of the post. Due to a difficulty in cutting the Mikve Israel fence, the attack was not launched on time, the forces did not arrive at the deployment area on time, and the artillery that began according to the original time plan brought to a loss in the surprise element.

Despite their late arrival, the forces conquered the Pillbox hill without any Arab retaliation; however, with the first light of morning, an attack was launched by Kawakaji's army rescue forces, which were staying west of Tel Arish. In the morning hours, the soldiers, who had not had the chance to fortify as needed, retreated towards Mikve Israel, evacuating with them some of the wounded and killed soldiers.

Nineteen soldiers were lost in the severe battle, seven of them buried as anonymous in the cemetery at Nahlat Yitzhak and two of them were identified after the battle. There were seven remaining missing IDF soldiers, five of whom were buried in Nahlat Yitzhak. The bodies of two additional combat soldiers were never located- Corporal Amos Danieli zl, and Corporal Yitzhak (Yitzhak'le) Kendler zl.