Officer dies of wounds from hostage rescue raid in Gaza; entire op renamed in his honor

Chief Insp. Arnon Zmora, 36, from elite Yamam counter-terrorism unit, came under fire while leading team extracting hostages from building in Nuseirat; also fought Hamas on Oct. 7

Chief Inspector Arnon Zmora, who was killed in a mission to rescue hostages held in the Gaza Strip, June 8, 2024. (Israel Police)
Chief Inspector Arnon Zmora, who was killed in a mission to rescue hostages held in the Gaza Strip, June 8, 2024. (Israel Police)

An officer of the elite Yamam counter-terrorism unit who was critically wounded in a hostage rescue operation in the central Gaza Strip on Saturday morning succumbed to his wounds a few hours later.

He was named as Chief Inspector Arnon Zmora, 36, from Sde David.

Survived by his wife and two children, Zmora will be laid to rest on Sunday afternoon in the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem.

Four Israeli hostages were rescued alive from Hamas captivity Saturday  from two separate buildings in the heart of central Gaza’s Nuseirat. Zmora was critically wounded by Hamas fire while commanding the team that rescued three of the four hostages during the daring daylight raid.

A major gun battle erupted during the extraction, during which time Zmora’s vehicle came under fire. Other forces quickly reached the scene to rescue the wounded officer and the hostages, bringing them to a makeshift helipad in Gaza.

Zmora was evacuated to a hospital in Israel in a critical condition and succumbed to his wounds a short while later.

Israeli hostages pictured after their rescue from Hamas captivity in Gaza on June 8, 2024. From left: Shlomi Ziv (IDF); Andrey Kozlov and Almog Meir Jan (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90), and Noa Argamani (Courtesy)

After his death was announced, the name of the hostage rescue operation in which he was killed was changed from “Seeds of Summer” to “Operation Arnon” in his memory.

The four rescued hostages, Noa Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 21, Andrey Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 40, were abducted from the Supernova music festival near the community of Re’im on the morning of October 7, when some 3,000 Hamas-led terrorists killed 1,200 people and took 251 hostages in a murderous rampage in southern Israel.

On October 7, Zmora himself had led a battle against Hamas near the border community of Yad Mordechai, killing dozens of terrorists and preventing them from infiltrating the kibbutz.

After that battle, Zmora was also involved in fighting terrorists at the Nahal Oz base and at Kibbutz Be’eri.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday acknowledged the tragic cost of the rescue mission. “One of the best of our sons has fallen… I know what pain his family is going through.”

The prime minister’s older brother, Yoni Netanyahu, was killed leading an elite IDF force in the Entebbe hostage rescue in 1976.

“He and his colleagues proved that the State of Israel has the strength and power and the will to fight those who seek to kill us, and that the IDF can get anywhere,” Netanyahu added.

From left to right: Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi and Shin Bet security services Director Ronen Bar at the special operations room overseeing a mission to release hostages in the Gaza Strip, June 8, 2024. (Shin Bet security service)

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who is responsible for the Israel Police, also eulogized Zmora, while praising the “heroic action of the Yamam and the other security forces” during the rescue operation.

“Arnon was a brave warrior who impressed everyone who met him with his love of Israel and his devotion,” he said, adding that “the soldiers of the Yamam unit of the Israel Police are the spearhead of the security forces,” and that “only through great and continuous military pressure will we be able to return the rest of the abductees to their homes.”

Relatives of the rescued hostages sent condolences to Zmora’s family, while expressing hope that the remaining 116 hostages taken on October 7 would return home safely.

“There’s a lot of happiness today, a lot of tears,” said rescued hostage Kozlov’s aunt, Anna, while sending condolences to Zmora’s family.

The war in Gaza erupted after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, with Israel launching a wide-scale military operation with the aim of destroying the terror group and freeing the hostages.

A total of 295 soldiers and one police officer have been killed during the ground offensive against Hamas and amid operations along the Gaza border. A civilian Defense Ministry contractor has also been killed in the Strip.

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