The crown jewel of the prized elite combat unit. The best of the best. A humble and quiet man whose whole life was the army and his soldiers.
That was how friends and soldiers described Lt.-Col. Emanuel Moreno, 35, of the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit, who was killed Saturday in a shoot-out with Hizbullah fighters during a brazen Israeli commando raid in the heart of Lebanon.
Moreno was the first member of the famed unit to be killed in action in 12 years, since the 1994 botched operation to free imprisoned IDF soldier Nachshon Wachsman in the West Bank, in which Capt. Nir Poraz was killed.
Moreno, a Jerusalem-born father of three, lived with his family in the community of Telamim. He participated in dozens of covert operations over the years - most of which have never been made public - and was a humble and quiet man who never spoke of his service to friends and neighbors.
"Emanuel was a humble and hidden man who was known as a good and attentive commander," said Rabbi Shmuel Shokron, the rabbi of Telamim. "All he did in the army was and always will be a secret."
"When they say the best of the best, they are talking about him," soldiers in the unit said. "The unit was his whole life," they added.
His wife, who he last saw on Thursday, knew he was fighting in Lebanon but knew nothing of the mission.
Moreno was killed and two other officers in the unit were wounded, including one seriously, during a daring military operation that saw helicopter-borne commandos, reportedly dressed as Lebanese Army soldiers, land near the Hizbullah stronghold of Baalbek in an operation meant to halt the ongoing flow of weapons from Syria to Hizbullah.
Twenty-four hours later, Moreno - who is survived by his wife, three children and three brothers - was buried in the wee hours of Sunday morning in Jerusalem's Mount Herzl military cemetery, in the darkened quiet of the night that symbolized his closely-veiled military career.