‘One of the best’: Officers, officials mourn death of police commando Noam Raz

Noam Raz, a veteran police commando who was killed in an Israeli operation near Jenin in the West Bank on Friday, was hailed as a hero and beloved family man.

Raz, 47, was a founding member and resident of the settlement of Kida in the West Bank and leaves behind a wife and six children.

Police chief Kobi Shabtai said Raz, a 23-year veteran of the elite Yamam counterterrorism unit, was one of the best officers in the force.

“We bow our heads in the memory of Noam Raz z”l who fell in an exchange of fire with terrorists,” said Shabtai. “Noam was a dedicated husband, an exemplary father, and one of the best fighters in the Israel Police.”

He revealed that Raz, who was a paramedic in the unit, saved the life of a seriously wounded comrade during a recent previous clash in Jenin.

“Heroism and values were inherent in his character and operational activity in the Yamam,” he said.

Raz was hit by gunfire during an operation that included raids on terror suspects’ homes in the town of Burqin, near Jenin in the West Bank. He was evacuated to the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.

Hospital officials said he arrived in a critical condition. They attempted prolonged efforts to resuscitate him, but he had complex wounds to his upper body and eventually, they were forced to declare him dead.

Raz was among the founders of the Kida settlement, according to a statement issued by the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council following his death.

“Noam was a pillar in his community. A humble family man connected to the Land of Israel with every fiber of his being… He was loved by everyone,” the statement said. “The community of Kida and the residents of Binyamin send their condolences to the family during this difficult time.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that Israel has lost a hero.

“During his 23 years of service in the unit, Noam participated in numerous counter-terror operations, risked himself, and saved lives, as his commanders would testify — with courage and humility,” Bennett said.

A masked Palestinian gunman fires an automatic weapon during clashes with Israeli security forces in the West Bank city of Jenin on May 13, 2022. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)

“We will continue to fight terrorism decisively and with an iron fist until we overcome it and return security to Israeli citizens. This is Noam’s legacy,” the Israeli premier added.

President Isaac Herzog also sent “condolences from the depths of my heart to his grieving family,” saying he had participated in numerous special operations and saved many lives.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz sent condolences to the family and said Israel would continue its relentless campaign against terrorism.

“We will continue to fight terrorists, those who send them, their accomplices, and anyone who attempts to harm Israel’s citizens,” Gantz tweeted.

Raz was shot during an operation that included raids on terror suspects’ homes.

The Israel Defense Forces earlier acknowledged that forces from the military and Shin Bet as well as Yamam were operating in Burqin in order to arrest a number of suspects.

During the operation, Israeli forces fired at armed terrorists who opened heavy fire and threw explosives toward them… As part of the operation, forces used various special measures to arrest a suspect who barricaded himself inside his home and eventually surrendered together with his brother,” a joint statement issued by police and the IDF read.

Footage on social media showed masked Palestinians firing rifles in the direction of Israeli soldiers, as heavy gunfire could be heard.

Palestinian reports said Israeli forces surrounded the home of a suspect and called on everyone inside to surrender. The Islamic Jihad terror group identified the suspect, Mohammad al-Dab’i, as a member of its military wing.

Smoke rises from a home during an Israeli military operation in the West Bank town of Jenin, Friday, May 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Video showed an Israeli soldier firing a shoulder-launched missile at the home, with smoke then seen rising from the building.

A separate clip showed the house on fire. It was unclear if anyone was inside.

Raz’s death comes amid heightened tensions between Palestinians and Israeli forces in the West Bank amid a terror wave that has killed 19 Israelis since mid-March.

More than 30 Palestinians have been killed in recent weeks, most of them involved in attacks or clashes with Israeli forces.