Three years after being killed in secret op in Gaza, identity of the Special Forces operator revealed

May 16, 2022 by Aryeh Savir - TPS
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On Sunday, three and a half years after Lt. Col. “M.” was killed in a secret mission in the Gaza Strip, the identity of the Special Forces operator was revealed – Lt.-Col. Mahmoud Kheir el-Din from Hurfish, a Druze town in the Galilee in northern Israel.

Lt.-Col. Mahmoud Kheir el-Din. (IDF)

He was 41 years old and is survived by his wife Nahad, two sons, his parents and seven brothers and sisters.

On November 11, 2018, his unit was conducting a special intelligence-gathering operation in Khan Yunis. Travelling in two civilian vehicles, their cover was exposed at a Hamas checkpoint. Ordered to accompany the Hamas guards for interrogation, they instead opened fire. Kheir el-Din was hit in the ensuing crossfire shot by a bullet from a member of his own unit. He later died of his wounds. Another IDF soldier was moderately injured.

In the gun battle, five Hamas terrorists were killed, including a senior field commander, and seven injured. According to reports issued at the time, hundreds of armed terrorists chased after the Israeli security force as they headed toward Israel. An Israeli air force helicopter landed in a field nearby and whisked them to safety while they were provided with cover by air force bombing sorties.

The IDF unit escaped without leaving behind any sensitive equipment or materials. The two cars in which they had been travelling were destroyed entirely by the air force bombing.

In retaliation, Hamas fired 17 missiles into Israel from the Gaza Strip. The Iron Dome intercepted three of them and the others fell in open areas.

At the time, Kheir el-Din was praised for his bravery and the entire unit was described as “determined and heroic.”

In his statement, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett recalled that he eulogised him at his funeral and “now the people of Israel have the privilege of openly knowing him, the name and face of this hero of Israel, Lt.-Col. Mahmoud Kheir el-Din.”

Chief of Staff Lt. Col. Aviv Cochavi gave el-Din a commendation after he fell, saying that he “demonstrated responsibility, leadership, cool-headedness and incredible courage under fire in order to protect his comrades at arms.” Military Intelligence Chief Major General Aharon Haliva called him “an Israeli hero and a very special person.”

Not only was he a brave soldier, but he was also a role model for young Druze. He encouraged them to enlist for meaningful service in the IDF and was engaged in a program to help close Hebrew-language gaps among those completing high school.

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