By Yona Schnitzer
Hours after an IDF officer was killed in clashes between IDF special forces and Hamas fighters during an operation in Gaza on Sunday night, the army announced that the officer, named as Lieutenant Colonel M., was the highest ranking IDF officer to be killed in action since 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.
IDF Spokesperson Ronen Manelis said on Monday morning that“M’s personal details will not be publicized, but he is worthy of all of our salutes for his actions last night, and in the past.
“What was made public tonight is the tip of the iceberg of actions aimed at solidifying Israel’s superiority. The extraction of the forces was an act of courage that will be discussed in extent in the future” said Manelis, adding that, contrary to what has been reported, the object of Sunday night’s mission was intelligence oriented and it was not to abduct or assassinate a Hamas senior.
“Actions of this sort are considered heavily, and usually remain under the radar,” he said.
On Monday morning, Israel’s senior leadership expressed its condolences for the loss of M., whose full name remains classified for security reasons.
“An IDF special forces unit carried out a mission last night, of high security significance for Israel’s security” said IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, adding that the IDF “owes M. more than can be said.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said: “I bow my head on the fall of Lieutenant Colonel M., a glorious fighter who fell tonight in the IDF operation in the Gaza Strip. A day will come and all of his might will be told. The citizens of Israel owe him a huge debt. Our forces acted valiantly tonight. I salute Lieutenant Colonel M., his family and his comrades in arms. Of blessed memory.”
“Last night, the people of Israel lost a warrior, whose sacrifice for national security will remain classified for years to come,” said Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, adding his condolences for M’s family and wishes for a speedy recovery for the second officer wounded in the operation.
President Reuven ‘Ruvi’ Rivlin said that he is “shocked and pained over the loss of an IDF officer, who was killed last night. I’m praying with the rest of the people of Israel for the recovery of the wounded soldier.”
“We are hurting along with the family of the IDF officer who was killed last night, and wish a speedy recovery to the wounded officer,” commented Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni. “We are proud of the courage of our soldiers, who are ready for any mission at any time. To the people of the Gaza Belt – I can do nothing but salute you. Now is the time to act responsibly.”
M’s friends and neighbors were not aware of the capacity of his role in the IDF. “He was a modest person, who did not like to brag,” a neighbor said about him, adding that the entire town is in shock.
“We knew he was an officer,” he said, “but no one knew what unit he served in, or that he was a Lieutenant Colonel.”