An Israeli Special Operations unit conducted a raid into southern Gaza in the early morning hours Monday. The operation’s commander, who has been only identified as Lt. Col. M., was killed in the exchange of fire; another Israeli commando was slightly wounded. Seven Palestinians were killed, including Nour Baraka — a deputy commander of the elite Hamas unit Iz al-Din al-Qassam. From the emerging reports it appears that the Israeli target was the Hamas military commander, and as a high value target, he was well protected.

Dressed in civilian clothes, the Israeli commandos infiltrated the Gaza Strip in a nondescript vehicle. Upon reaching their target, the Shahid Ismail Abu Shanab mosque, they identified the Hamas military commander and commenced the operation. It is still unclear if their goal was to capture or kill their target. The IDF has stated that the objective was neither to assassinate nor abduct the Hamas commander. It follows, then, that it was a surveillance or close-target reconnaissance operation. In that event, the IDF commandos were compromised, and a firefight broke out. Baraka was killed and the two IDF operators were hit in the exchange of fire, with Lt. Col. M. later dying of his wounds.

The Israeli army stated that this was a lengthy operation and that “the special force encountered a very complex reality.” A military spokesperson added that “what was revealed tonight is the very tip of operations that are carried out regularly and the purpose of which is to enable Israel’s superiority as it exists today.”

Despite being mortally wounded, Lt. Col. M. had the presence of mind and selflessness to safely lead his team back to Israel.

Israeli Air Force jets covered the team’s exfiltration, destroying a number of Palestinian vehicles that were pursuing the team. After the raid, more than 400 rockets were fired at Israel. The Iron Dome air defence system managed to intercept numerous projectiles but some got through causing considerable damage.

Regarding the operation’s commander, the IDF said that details “will not be published in the media but he deserves our salute. His actions led to Israel having superiority over its enemies.”

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman added, “The Israeli people lost an industrious fighter tonight, whose contribution to the state will remain confidential for many years.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — himself a former commando in the IDF — cut short his trip to Paris, where he was attending the commemoration services for the First World War centenary.