(November 12, 2018 / JNS) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his condolences for the death of a special-forces soldier in an intelligence gathering operation gone awry in Gaza overnight on Sunday.
“I bow my head in sadness at the loss of Lt. Col. M., a glorious fighter who fell during an IDF operation in the Gaza Strip,” Netanyahu wrote on Twitter. “The day will come when we can tell of all his valor. The citizens of Israel owe him an enormous debt.”
The statements were made as the prime minister cut short a trip to Paris and flew urgently back to Israel.
The death of Lt. Col. M.—whose name was withheld by a military gag order, but who is believed to be a member of Israel’s Druze community and father of two—is reported to have come after he and his team were discovered to be Israeli intelligence operatives by local terrorists and attacked inside Gaza.
Another soldier was moderately injured and evacuated to Beersheva’s Soroka Medical Center. All the soldiers were evacuated back to Israel. Further details were not publicized, as per the direction of military censors.
The incident comes after another tense Palestinian “March of Return” protest at the Gaza-Israeli border on Friday.
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin said all of Israel was praying for the recovery of the injured soldier, and said he was “shocked and saddened” by the death of Lt. Col. M.
“Thanks to the heroes who work year-round in the shadows to ensure Israel’s security, we can all live here safely,” said Naftali Bennett, Jewish Home Party leader, Israel’s Education Minister and member of the security cabinet who served in the elite Sayeret Matkal army unit.
In the opposition, chairman of the Yesh Atid Party Yair Lapid also offered his condolences, thanking IDF soldiers “who, with bravery and determination, reminded Hamas and our other enemies that there is no place where will not find them.” He was joined by opposition leader and former Mossad agent Tzipi Livni, who said Israel is “proud of our courageous soldiers who are ready for any mission at any hour.”
Reports indicate that fighting between Hamas terrorists and the IDF forces took place after their cover was blown, and that the subsequent killing of Qassam Brigades commander Nour Baraka in the ensuing fire fight was not the goal of the operation.
During the battle, the IDF unit called in aerial support, which provided cover while they escaped Gaza.
Following the incident, at least 17 missiles were launched from Gaza, sending Israelis all around the Gaza perimeter as far as Beersheva into bomb shelters.
Three of the missiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile-defense system, with the rest falling in open fields outside populated areas. One agricultural greenhouse suffered light damage.
Israel responded by shuttering schools in the area for the day and ordering residents to remain near bomb shelters. Train lines south of Ashkelon were also cancelled for the day.