They were simply shooting at us between the children’s heads
During my military service I was a team leader in Golani Special Forces. I had led soldiers in combat in Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza. After the Second war of Lebanon, the main threat to Israel was Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Hamas was conducting daily missile and mortar attacks on the cities and villages in Israel surrounding the Gaza Strip. My mission as a team leader was to stop the shooting that was done mainly from the farming areas to the east and north of the city of Gaza. I remember a saying from one of the Hamas leaders at the time about us Israeli soldiers. He said that when the Israeli soldiers will enter Gaza they won’t find themselves fighting only against several thousand Hamas soldiers, they will find themselves fighting against 1.5 million people who love death more than they love life and want to be Shahids (martyrs). That’s what he said and that’s how I felt, that we were fighting against the entire city and not just the terrorists.
In that mission we entered the Gaza Strip at 1 or 2 am, advancing very carefully between the olive trees. We located our target’s launching site at the middle of a neighborhood and set an ambush in an olive plantation nearby. We waited the whole night, and then, at about 5 am we were spotted. The first morning farmers have understood that there are IDF forces in the area, perhaps they saw our tracks from the border. Anyway, they understood that there are troops around and naturally called Hamas. A bit later, at 5:30am, I saw a group of 10-15 children, no older than 6 or 7 running around the plantation. I did not understand why would they come here, why would Hamas send children? Eventually I learned that young children are just short enough to be able to run around an olive plantation to look for us, without being slowed down by the branches.
It took the kids about 10 to 15 minutes to find us. Once they found us they cheered and started pointing at us while shouting and smiling. Less than a minute later, we started taking machine gun and AK 47 fire, all that while the kids were still there. I remember thinking we should not fire back with massive arms because the kids are still there, but Hamas- they did not care, they were simply shooting at us between the children’s heads. We took cover and hid behind the trees and then, about 2 minutes later, RPG missiles started flying at us. At that point we had to leave so we went around one of the buildings and started to fight back.
What struck me the most from that day was the realization that we genuinely do not fight only against Hamas, but against the entire city, and also, how successful Hamas is with gathering the civilians in Gaza to fight against us, including children. Hamas sends children to trace armed soldiers, and then starts fighting while the children are still there. We are fighting in Gaza to protect the Israeli citizens in the cities and villages around the Gaza Strip, to protect their kids and families. On the other side, Hamas is using its own children to fight us. Its unimaginable that we are going to the front line to protect our children back home and they are sending their children to the fight.