A senior Israeli commander woke up in the hospital from an induced coma on Sunday after being severely wounded in a counterterrorist operation in the West Bank that escalated into a firefight with Palestinian gunmen over the weekend.
Chief Superintendent S., a commander in the elite counterterrorism Border Police unit Yamam was evacuated by helicopter to Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa.
With 22 years of experience under his belt, S.'s peers tell of a highly revered officer who has played an integral part in nearly every one of the unit's major counterterrorism operations over the past two decades.
Overnight Saturday, S. and his subordinates were deployed to stop a terrorist cell that was en route to carry out an attack in Israel. The force zeroed in on the location of the terrorists' vehicle near the northern West Bank city of Jenin.
Three Palestinians, all linked to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group, were killed in the firefight that ensued. Four Israeli officers, including S., were wounded. The force discovered the Palestinians stowed guns, ammunition and hand grenades in their car, which were planned to be used against Israeli civilians.
The Shin Bet domestic security agency described the three gunmen as "ticking time bombs" and said they were responsible for at least one shooting against Israeli forces in the West Bank and were planning to carry out several other attacks in the immediate future.
After being rushed to the hospital, S. underwent emergency surgery, having sustained a gunshot wound to the chest, and was placed in an induced coma. He ultimately opened his eyes Sunday afternoon and was said to be communicating with his family and doctors.
Many colleagues and dignitaries arrived at the northern Israeli hospital to show their respect and appreciation for the decorated officer.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that he first met the 43-year-old officer several months ago and described him as "one of Israel's finest field commanders."
"He won hundreds of confrontations and battles, and I pray for his recovery and health," Bennett said.
One of the most notable missions S. commanded was the capture of six Palestinian security prisoners who broke out of the maximum-security Gilboa Prison last September.
After the successful operation, S. said in an interview that "the moment we confirmed it was them, there was a feeling of great fulfillment that it was closed, that our forces are safe."
"Even after 20 years, the adrenaline is there because you don't know what to expect. I can say that every time I looked the murderers in the eyes, there was fear. They can't believe that we reach them every time."