scene of Gaza incident this morning
scene of Gaza incident this morning Reuters

Thousands of people joined the friends and family of Lieutenant Colonel M., the special forces soldiers who was killed in Gaza Sunday night.

The funeral took place in Lt. Col. M's hometown. Among those who came to pay their respects to the fallen soldier were senior IDF officers and President Reuven Rivlin. He leaves behind a wife and two children.

President Rivlin spoke at the funeral with tears in his eyes. “I came to thank and to salute a hero, on behalf of the entire State of Israel. The very best of our boys, whose memory will be forever engraved in our hearts.”

Rivlin added: “Your pain is our pain, your grief is our grief. The grief of the whole people, the whole people of Israel. M was one of the bravest and most daring soldiers and commanders of the State of Israel and he fell defending the citizens of Israel, the children of Israel. He lived the values he was brought up on: bravery, self-sacrifice, daring and determination, and that is how he died.”

The president hugged M’s children and said, “your dad was a hero, the greatest hero.”

Lt. Col. M. was killed when an IDF special forces unit operating in the southern Gaza Strip on a mission Israeli military officials said was “very meaningful” to Israeli security, encountered a force of Hamas terrorists, resulting in an “exchange of fire.”

Israeli air units were later called in, resulting in dozens of missile strikes near Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, Arab media outlets reported.

Seven Hamas terrorists were killed, including Nur Barakeh, commander of the eastern battalion of Hamas’ Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades in Khan Yunis.

A second IDF soldier was wounded in the skirmish.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, who is currently assessing the security situation at the IDF's Tel Aviv headquarters with the prime minister and defense minister, spoke about the operation in which Lieutenant Colonel M. was killed.

"A special force of the IDF operated tonight in an operation of high importance to Israel's security. The force and the air force fought a courageous battle with coolness and heroism. "

"I salute the forces," added Eizenkot. "The IDF owes Lieutenant Colonel M. more than we can tell. Embraces his family and wishes a full recovery for the wounded IDF officer."