Last night the IDF released the names of six additional soldiers killed in the war against Hamas. Since ground forces entered Gaza, 59 soldiers have been killed in action and a total of 383 have fallen since Hamas’ attacks. In our war to dismantle the Hamas threat and bring our hostages home, they will, unfortunately, almost certainly not be the last.
These soldiers paid the ultimate price for their country and while the numbers are high, behind name is an entire world.
In today’s newsletter, I want to focus on one of the fallen soldiers named yesterday – Major Jamal Abbas – as well as his family, and his community.
A Family Tradition of Service
Major Jamal Abbas z”l, 23 years old.
Captain Abbas was promoted to Major posthumously as per IDF practice, served as a company commander in the 101st Battalion of the Paratroopers Brigade, and was from the town of Peki’in in Northern Israel.
The 101st inherited the unit number from Israel’s elite commando 101 Unit when the unit was merged with the paratroopers in the 1950s. Of course, just like all the solders of the Paratroopers Brigade, they don red berets, paratrooper wings and red boots that set them apart from other infantry outfits. The battalion has a long history of participating in every one of the Paratroopers Brigade’s engagements and is considered one of the most elite and highly-trained battalions within the Israeli military.
But back to Major Abbas.
The Abbas family has a deep tradition of IDF service. Jamal’s father, Anan is a personal friend of mine and a Colonel in the reserves and his brother Gideon is a Captain in the reserves.
The Druze Community and the IDF
Military service in Israel is, as most know, mandatory. This cuts across different communities and religions. Internally, the IDF is frequently called a “melting pot,” where people from all walks of life, representing the heterogeneity of Israel, all come together to serve.
So let’s talk about Major Abbas and the Druze community.
Peki’in is primarily a Druze city, and the Abbas family are members of Israel’s 145,000+ Druze community.
The Israeli-Druze are an ethic and religious minority. They make up just 1.6% percent of Israel’s population and hold the principle of military service fiercely. They have served in every war since 1948, and their draft rate is over 80%, outstripping most other communities in Israel.
As a matter of fact, until 2015, there was a special combat unit in the IDF made up of Druze soldiers called Herev (“Sword”). The unit was disbanded at the request of Druze community leaders who wanted a full integration in all IDF combat units in order to expand their service options.
A Final Conversation Between Father and Son
This 80% service rate frequently leads to multiple members of families serving. While Jamal was battling terrorists in Gaza last week, his father and brother, both of whom serve in the Northern Command, managed to speak to him – briefly – over the military radio. It was a short conversation and would ultimately prove to be their last.
The recording is distributed with the family’s permission.
— Ynetnews (@ynetnews) November 19, 2023
With such strong service and a propensity to serve in combat units, Major Abbas was not the sole Druze casualty – five other members of the small Druze community have also fallen.
Israel is a small place. I, for example, know his father, Colonel Annan Abbas, well from previous roles in the military. But whether they knew him or not, the entire nation of Israel mourns with him and the Druze community at large.
May Jamal’s memory be for a blessing.
- Over the last day, IDF troops have expanded operations in the Northern Gaza Strip, with troops of the 36th Division operating in the Zaytun area, and troops of the 162nd Division operating in the Jabalya area.
- During these operations, IDF forces encountered terrorists who attempted to attack the troops using anti-tank missiles and explosive devices while huding behind civilian infrastructure. During the battles, numerous terrorists were killed and terror infrastructure neutralized.
- In the Shifa hospital complex, forces are working to uncover information on the status of the hostages, uncover Hamas command posts and weapons, neutralize terrorists, and destroy Hamas’ underground infrastructure. We will be sharing more information about this today.
- Last night, IDF fighter jets and tanks struck a number of Hezbollah terror targets in Lebanese territory, including terror posts and military compounds. These strikes were in response to rocket launches against northern Israel. Simultaneously, an IDF UAV struck an additional terrorist cell.
- 10 mortar shells were launched toward Shlomi in northern Israel. No damage was reported. The IDF responded with artillery strikes against the source of the shelling.