Photo by TPS-IL on 13 May, 2024

‘His Fighting Spirit Was Contagious’: Family Mourns Druze Hero

Public By Sveta Listratov • 13 May, 2024

Jerusalem, 13 May, 2024 (TPS) -- A somber mood fell on the Druze village of Yanuh. The family of Lt.-Col. Salman Habaka was honoring the memory of their beloved husband, son and brother, but also Israel’s hero.

The 33-year-old Habaka was lauded for taking the initiative on October 7 and deploying tanks to protect multiple Gaza communities on October 7.

But he was tragically killed on November 2, fighting in the Zeitoun area of northern Gaza.

Recalling the morning of October 7 to The Press Service of Israel, his wife, Areen, said, “Salman left the house swiftly, determined to reach his destination as quickly as possible. He was always the first to pave the route, and the soldiers followed him.”

He raced the 255 km from his northern Israeli village to the Tze’elim army base in the Negev in under two hours.

Habaka’s swift actions set the tone for the response, as he directed his officers to prepare tanks for battle. Despite facing communication challenges and limited intelligence, Salman made a bold — and ultimately successful — decision to deploy tanks to multiple communities under attack, including Kibbutz Be’eri.

Throughout the intense fighting, Salman’s leadership inspired his soldiers to press forward, resulting in the successful elimination of over one hundred Hamas terrorists. His unwavering commitment to his mission and his troops’ safety never faltered, even in the face of adversity.

“I’m proud of my soldiers, they are real heroes,” Habaka said in an interview for the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit after the battle of Be’eri. “We will rise stronger, united and powerful. We will not allow those inhuman, cowardly weaklings to bring down our spirits.”

Salman’s father, Emad, told TPS-IL with pride, “He always insisted on being the first tank entering the fight. His fighting spirit was contagious.”

Tragically, Salman’s life was cut short during a subsequent ground operation in Gaza.

Druze Sacrifices

Salman stands among the eight heroes of the Druze community who since October 7 sacrificed their lives. Since 1948 when Israel was established, 437 Druze soldiers have fallen in the line of duty.

“In Israel, bereavement extends beyond the Jewish community, resonating profoundly among all sectors of society, particularly the Druze,” Nadim Ammar a bereaved brother and social activist from Julis, told TPS-IL. “Remembrance Day serves as a unifying force, reminding us that Israel’s identity embraces diverse populations beyond its Jewish community.”

Ammar’s own journey of loss began eight years ago when his younger brother, Brig.-General Munir Ammar perished in 2016 when a light plane he was flying solo crashed in the Galilee. Ammar was the head of the Israel Defense Force’s Civil Administration

In his brother’s honor, Nadim founded Ohr, an Israeli Druze foundation dedicated to academic and cultural advancement while spotlighting the Israeli Druze within the international community.

“Many people around the world are unaware of Israel’s diverse communities, non-Jewish ones that are proud to be Israeli,” Ammar told TPS-IL.

For the Druze, Remembrance Day holds profound significance, Ammar explained. “In our small villages, the memories are deeply personal. Each individual feels a profound connection. We preserve the stories of our fallen heroes, ensuring they endure for generations. Families receive visitors who served alongside their loved ones, even years later. This enduring tradition holds great meaning for us.”