Lt. Col. Salman Habaka braved battle on two fronts during Israel’s war with Hamas. 

First, he was one of the first Israeli soldiers to enter Kibbutz Be’eri on Saturday, October 7, helping free it from terrorists who had killed more than 100 residents, kidnapped others, and committed acts of torture and destruction. 

Then, he took part in the army’s ground operation in the northern Gaza Strip, where he was killed in action on November 2.

Habaka, 33, was the commander of the 188th Armored Brigade’s 53rd Battalion. On October 7, he raced from his home in northern Israel to the south of the country, leading tanks into Kibbutz Be’eri.

“I want to say that I’m proud of my soldiers. I have soldiers who are real heroes – they arrived very quickly to the tanks, and operated quickly, operated determinately, responsibly and with real belligerence, just like I expect from them,” Habaka said in an interview at the beginning of the war, published by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit after his death.

“We will have the upper hand at all times. We will not allow this inhuman, cowardly behavior, these weaklings, to bring down our spirits. We will rise stronger, united and powerful.” 

Habaka was a resident of the Arab Druze village of Yanuh. He is survived by his wife, two-year-old son, parents and siblings. His death has rallied Israelis of all backgrounds in appreciation for the bravery of Israel’s Druze soldiers and their devotion to their country. His funeral was attended by thousands, and his death was widely reported in Israeli media.

“I send you my encouragement, and I expect you, Am Israel [the nation of Israel], I expect you to carry on being united, being resilient, to carry on being cohesive, because we will only win this together. Our strength is in our unity,” he said, addressing the Israeli public from the northern Gaza Strip days before his death.