Israel's leadership appeared rattled Monday morning in responding to the overnight death of a top IDF commando during a mission deep inside the Gaza Strip.
The fallen officer, identified only as Lt.-Col. M, was clearly known to everyone at the top of Israel's political and military echelons, as evidenced by their mournful reactions via Twitter and statements released to the press:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: "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. The day will come when we can tell of all his valor. The citizens of Israel owe him an enormous debt."
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman: "Israel lost an experienced fighter, whose contributions to the country will remain a secret for years to come."
Education Minister Naftali Bennett: "Thanks to the heroes who work year-round in the shadows to ensure Israel’s security, we can all live here safely."
IDF Chief-of-Staff Gen. Gadi Eisenkot: "The IDF owes more to Lt. Col. ‘M’ than I can say."
What is known of Lt.-Col. M is that he was 41-year-old and is survived by his wife and two young children. He was apparently leading an intelligence-gathering mission when the team was discovered by Hamas terrorists. During the ensuing firefight, another IDF officer was wounded and at least seven Hamas gunmen were killed, including a senior leader in the terrorist group.
The IDF team was able to make the dangerous trek back to Israeli territory and successfully extract Lt.-Col. M's body thanks to precision support from the Israel Air Force.
"IDF troops that operated last night in the Gaza Strip became trapped in a highly complex situation. The soldiers acted heroically, hit those who threatened them and extracted themselves to Israeli territory," IDF Spokesperson Ronen Manelis told Army Radio.
Hamas claimed that the purpose of the mission was to assassinate the terrorist leader who was killed in the gunfight, and responded by launching a number of rockets at southern Israel. Three of the projectiles were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome, and the rest fell harmlessly in open fields.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short his state visit to Paris following the escalation, and possibly in response to the identity of the fallen IDF officer.
PHOTO: Illustration. Israeli forces evacuate a wounded comrade from the battlefield. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)