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Commander of Israeli elite forces ‘retires’ in rare move

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A member of Sayeret Matkal, the most elite unit within the Israeli military’s special forces

In a rare move, the commander of the most elite unit of the Israeli military’s special forces has decided to “retire” towards the end of his term, months after an operation by the commando unit inside Gaza went badly wrong.

Israeli news and media outlets identified the commander as Colonel H., who heads Sayeret Matkal or the Israeli military’s General Staff Reconnaissance Unit.

The elite force is known for slipping behind enemy lines to gather intelligence or hit targets.

“During his service, he made a decision to retire at the end of his position in order to pursue personal goals unrelated to the security realm,” a spokesman for the military said in a statement.

“In the last three years in which he commanded the Sayeret Matkal, the unit carried out many operations and was awarded the Chief of Staff’s medal,” the statement added.

With the exception of Colonel H., who will finish his 26-year term in two months, all those appointed to the position so far have returned to the military at the end of their terms.

Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post called the move “rare,” and Israel’s Arutz Sheva media network described it as “unusual.”

The reports did not provide any reason for the decision, but said it came following a botched mission by the special forces, which left a seniory Israeli military official, identified as Colonel M., dead.

The commando raid that took place on November 11 saw the forces infiltrating into the Gaza city of Khan Yunis in civilian cars for an undercover operation.

The intruders were, however, found out soon afterwards at a Palestinian security post.

Intense firefight ensued between the Israelis and Palestinian forces. Seven Palestinians also lost their lives in the clashes.

The Israelis were forced to retreat under the cover of air raids in the face of the Palestinian counter-operation, later dubbed “Operation Edge of the Sword.”

They were evacuated back into the occupied territories by helicopter.

The botched Israeli mission triggered the worst flare-up of violence since the regime’s 2014 war on Gaza.

Those tensions came to an end when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to a truce with the Hamas resistance movement in defiance of his then minister of military affairs, Avigdor Lieberman.

Lieberman then stepped down in a show of protest, triggering a crisis in Netanyahu’s coalition administration.

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