Son of first Israeli to win an Olympic medal killed in Gaza

Omer Smadga, 25, and Yaakov Dery, 27, died after Hamas mortar fire hit them in the Netzarim Corridor


Israel's Olympic committee said Omer Smadga always took on the 'most difficult tasks' (Photo: Facebook)

The son of the first Israeli man to win an Olympic medal has been killed by a Hamas mortar attack in Gaza on his father’s birthday.

Sgt. First Class Omer Smadga, 25, died alongside Sgt. First Class Saadia Yaakov Dery, 27, while stationed in the Netzarim Corridor, which cuts through the centre of the Gaza Strip.

His father, Oren Smadga, won a bronze in judo in the 1992 Summer Olympics.

Yaakov Dery is the son of right-wing news pundit Laly Derai, who ran in a Likud primary in 2022.

“My Saadia was a boy who put everyone else’s will before his own,” she said in a statement.

“He did a lot more than was expected of him in every field. He was a smart student, studied for the rabbinate exams, and began studying for his bachelor’s degree in teaching.”

Derai insisted: “My son did not fall on the altar of a diplomatic arrangement but for the sake of complete victory over the enemy.”

The Olympic Committee of Israel said Smadga had “only begun his life’s journey” when he was killed.

"All of Israel and the Israeli sporting family grieve his heroic fall,” they said in a statement.

“Dear Oren, a great coach, a great athlete. Just like you prepared and trained entire generations of excellent athletes, carrying the Israeli flag with pride and the human spirit – your dear son, too, is an example of someone taking on the most difficult tasks.”

Hamas claimed responsibility for the mortar fire launched on Thursday from Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighbourhood.

Three additional soldiers from the battalion were seriously wounded in the attack.

On Sunday, the military announced that 11 soldiers had been killed in action in Gaza over the previous 48 hours.

One additional soldier passed away from wounds sustained during fighting last week.

Eight of the soldiers were killed early on Saturday morning when their “Namer” armoured personnel carrier was destroyed during an operation in Tel Sultan in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah.

It was one of the deadliest incidents since late January, when 21 soldiers were killed in a building collapse caused by a blast in central Gaza.

The total death toll amoung IDF troops since the start of the Gaza ground operation on Oct. 27 now stands at 312, and at 664 on all fronts since Hamas’s October 7 massacre, according to the IDF.

Earlier this month, Arnon Zamora, a member of the Israel Border Police, was mortally wounded in Gaza earlier during a mission to rescue four hostages.

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