November 2, 2023 | Flash Brief

Israeli Druze Colonel Killed in Gaza Fighting 

November 2, 2023 | Flash Brief

Israeli Druze Colonel Killed in Gaza Fighting 

Latest Developments 

An Israeli tank battalion commander who distinguished himself in helping repel the October 7 Hamas onslaught was killed on November 1 during the Gaza ground offensive. Lt.-Col. Salman Habaka was a member of Israel’s Druze minority and commander of the Armored Corps’ 53rd Battalion. He was the 18th military fatality, and the most senior officer among them, in Gaza since Israel expanded ground operations a week ago. 

When Hamas terrorists triggered the Gaza war with a cross-border killing spree last month, Habaka, 33, drove down from his home in northern Israel, took charge of a tank, and drove it over paved roads to reach the besieged border communities. Witnesses described their relief at the sight of the officer, who introduced himself simply as “Salman,” turning up at Kibbutz Beeri, a tenth of whose residents were slaughtered.  

Habaka later told Israeli reporters that, after verifying that there were no hostages in the line of fire, he shelled homes where terrorists were holed up and said he believed the arrival of his tank turned the tide in that battle. 

Expert Analysis 

“In the cultural, religious, and ethnic mosaic that is Israel, the Druze have a special place. Having allied themselves with the Jewish state from its inception, they are drafted to the military and often rise to important positions there and in the civil service. The Hamas horrors inflicted on Israel have only served to highlight its extraordinary diversity and cohesion.” — Mark Dubowitz, FDD CEO 

“The terrorists in Gaza are indiscriminate killers. On October 7, innocent Israelis from the Bedouin and Arab communities as well as foreign workers and visitors from foreign countries were massacred. Now, in Israel’s response to the massacres, Israelis from different faiths, religions, and backgrounds are fighting on the front lines to defend Israel against further atrocities from the Iran-backed terror groups that surround the country.” — Enia Krivine, Senior Director of FDD’s Israel Program and National Security Network 

“Druze have distinguished themselves throughout the history of Israel, particularly within the Israel Defense Forces. On October 7, the Hamas terrorists didn’t distinguish between those they massacred; they killed Jews and Muslims, tourists and foreign workers. Those who rushed south to fight the terrorists came from every community and walk of life in Israel, and this spirit underpins the unity in Israel that is driving the country toward victory over extremists.” — Seth J. Frantzman, FDD Adjunct Fellow 

Israel Has Struck More Than 11,000 Terror Targets in Gaza,” FDD Flash Brief 

The second war against the Jews,” by Clifford D. May 

Unprecedented Rocket Fire Terrorizes Israeli Civilians,” FDD Flash Brief 

Israel Expands Offensive Around Gaza City,” FDD Flash Brief 


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