Identity of IDF commander killed in Gaza operation revealed

Lt.-Col. Mahmoud Kheir el-Din was killed by friendly fire while escaping Hamas terrorists during a secret mission gone bad in the Gaza Strip.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The IDF allowed the identity of the commander who was killed during a secret mission to the Gaza Strip in 2018 to be revealed Sunday – Lt.-Col. Mahmoud Kheir el-Din.

Calling him a “hero of Israel,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that he eulogized the Druze officer when he died but “only now are we permitted to reveal his name and thank him for his contribution and his dedication to the security of the state.”

Kheir el-Din entered Khan Yunis with a car full of undercover commandos on November 11, 2018 to carry out an operation that is still classified. A Hamas unit stopped them for inspection and something aroused their suspicions.

The IDF force opened fire on the terrorists to effect an escape. During the firefight, a senior Hamas commander was killed along with six of his men, but el-Din was also hit.

After a chase involving several carloads of Hamas terrorists, the elite special operations unit managed to get to an area where they could be evacuated by helicopter, but it wasn’t soon enough to save el-Din, who died of his wounds. The investigation that followed found that the 41-year-old officer was accidentally killed during the clash by friendly fire.

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Intelligence Directorate head Gen. Aharon Haliva said that the army had decided to reveal Kheir el-Din’s name due to “inquiries from the chief censor.”

The issue was discussed two months ago, “and in the end we came to the decision that there is no more need for censorship. From that point, the date of publication was decided in collaboration with the family.”

“Thanks to the many operations he carried out, he deserves to get the appropriate recognition,” Haliva added.

Kheir el-Din posthumously received the IDF’s highest commendation for his exceptional courage under fire. The commendation reads in part, “The team encountered the enemy and got into a difficult situation. Lt. Col. M. … stood … with determination, composure and courage to protect his colleagues. Lt. Col. M. … showed in his actions devotion to mission, responsibility, personal example and deep friendship.”

Immediately following the incident, then-IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said, “The IDF owes Lt. Col. M. more than we can say.”

Kheir el-Din served first in the paratroopers’ commando unit before a stint as a commander in the Bahad 1 training base. In 2002 he joined the Special Operations Division of the Intelligence Directorate, where he served until his death.

In addition to being dedicated to his duties, el-Din founded an association in 2002 that works to promote the status of the Druze community in Israel. Several years later he joined the “After Me!” organization that encourages youth in general, and Druze youth in particular, to enlist in meaningful service in the IDF.

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The decorated commander left behind a widow and two sons, then aged nine and five, as well as his parents and seven siblings.