Death of Israeli minister's son 'turns arrows on a map into arrows in the heart'

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

By Nathan Frandino

HERZLIYA, Israel (Reuters) - Israeli war cabinet minister Gadi Eizenkot learned of the death of his son in Gaza combat while conferring about operational plans at military headquarters outside the Palestinian enclave, his partner in government recalled at the funeral on Friday.

The experience, fellow centrist minister Benny Gantz said in a televised eulogy, brought home for them both the career-long knowledge that "arrows on the map can become arrows in the hearts of beloved families".

Gal Meir Eisenkot, 25, was among hundreds of thousands of military reservists mobilised for an Israeli offensive in response to an Oct 7 cross-border killing and kidnapping spree by Hamas, the Gaza Strip's ruling Palestinian Islamist group.

A commando, he was killed on Thursday in the enclave's north, where Israeli forces are battling Hamas in a handful of holdout districts after over-running Gaza City last month.

Hamas said he was killed by a bomb rigged to a guerrilla tunnel in the district of Tal al-Zaatar.

When Eisenkot was summoned by a casualty notification officer, he was in a operational planning room with Gantz.

"As that door - a door that became a curse - opened, it was similar to so many doors that you have opened in the past," Gantz said in remarks addressed to Eizenkot. Both are former infantrymen who rose to command all of Israel's military.

"I looked at you. When you went out, I thought: 'No one deserves this. Gal doesn't deserve this. Only those who love the homeland, who are raised to defend it and stand at the vanguard, are liable to fall in battle while protecting its future."

A former defence minister and the most popular political rival to conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Gantz joined a broadened emergency government to help manage the offensive. Under the deal, Eizenkot also joined the war cabinet.

Amid mounting international alarm at the civilian toll in Gaza, Israel has vowed to annihilate Hamas - an Iranian-backed group sworn to its destruction - and recover 137 hostages.

"Gal, I am certain that we will press the offensive, the effort to bolster the country which you so loved - in order that it will mainly be strong, cultivated and righteous," Eizenkot, his voice choked with tears, said over his son's coffin.

Netanyahu was among dignitaries who attended the funeral in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv. In a tribute to the Eizenkot family posted on social media, he said: "Our heroes have not fallen for nought. We shall continue to fight until victory."

(Writing by Dan Williams, Editing by William Maclean)