An Israeli officer seriously wounded in a shootout between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank died of his wounds on Friday morning.
Sergeant Major Noam Raz, 47, was shot during a raid on a terror suspect’s home in the Jenin area and rushed to a hospital in Haifa, where he later died from his wounds.
Raz, a husband and father of six children, was a member of the Israel Police's elite counter terrorism unit called Yamam. According to a Border Police spokesman, he enlisted in the IDF unit in 1999 and served for about 23 years in the unit as a fighter, paramedic, burglar and sniper.
“Noam participated in hundreds of operations. To thwart terrorism, he endangered himself and saved a life. A brave, professional and modest fighter,” read the statement.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel lost a hero. He called Sergeant Major Noam Raz “a brave fighter who gave his life for the security of Israel during a complex and delicate initiated counter-terrorist operation.”
“During his 23 years in the unit, Noam had participated in countless counter-terrorist operations, risked his own life and saved lives – as his commanders attest – with courage and modesty. We will continue to fight terrorism with determination and an iron fist until we defeat it and restore security to the citizens of Israel. This is the legacy that Noam leaves behind. May his memory be blessed,” Bennett added.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called Raz a “warrior who devoted his best years to national security and saving lives.”
“I send many condolences to Efrat, his wife, six children, family and friends,” he said.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu also eulogized the fighter.
Palestinian sources reported that 11 people were hurt in the altercation in which Raz was shot. One of is Daoud Zubeidi, the brother of notorious terrorist commander Zakaria Zubeidi, who has been on Israel's most-wanted list for several years. Zubeidi was the mastermind behind several terrorist attacks as the former Jenin chief of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. He was one of six Palestinian prisoners who escaped from the Gilboa Prison last year and were caught after a long manhunt.
At the request of the Palestinian Authority, Zubeidi’s brother, Daoud, was transferred to an Israeli hospital on Friday to receive treatment – a move harshly criticized by many Israelis.
This is the first time Israeli security forces have operated in the Jenin area since the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed during an exchange of fire between IDF forces and Palestinian gunmen on Wednesday.
The IDF emphasized that there was no connection between the operation in Jenin on Friday and the journalist's death.
“The operation was intended to arrest armed wanted men who had carried out shooting attacks against IDF forces,” a military correspondent for Israel's Channel 13 News reported.
The military has been operating in Jenin lately in response to a string of terror attacks in Israel that have resulted in the deaths of 19 victims. Several of the perpetrators are believed to be from the Jenin area.
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.