The boy turned himself in, and we understood he is wearing an explosive belt
At the end of 2007 Israel was under constant attacks. The towns and villages surrounding the Gaza Strip were attacked daily by missiles and mortar bombs. “Iron Dome” (rocket intercepting system) and the rest of the defense systems we have today were yet to be developed. In order to prevent these attacks we used to set ambushes around the launching sites inside the Gaza Strip. Our mission was to catch the Hamas firing squads in the act and neutralize the launchers.
The following events started exactly like this. We entered into the Gaza Strip at night and stationed ourselves on a roof of an industrial building, a soap factory in Beit-Hanun, which was overlooking a rocket launching site. At morning we received an intelligence report saying that we have been exposed and that Hamas knows our location. That report’s implication was that we should prepare ourselves for defense until nighttime when we could make our way back to Israel. We went down from the roof into the factory and made the necessary defense preparations. The building was surrounded by a wall and we positioned soldiers on all sides to guard from the doors and windows. It was not long, maybe an hour or two, before one of the guards identified a person climbing over the surrounding wall, a young boy, maybe 10 or 12 years old. The soldier managed to stop the boy without hurting him. The boy practically turned himself in, and we understood he was wearing an explosive belt. The boy took off the belt and stood almost naked and we pulled him inside the building. At nightfall, a few hours later, we made our way back to Israel and took him with us for interrogation.
The really amazing part of the story was revealed at the interrogation. The boy was a little older than we first thought, he was 15 years old, and apparently he was targeted by Hamas. The boy was from a struggling family with no father and a sick mother and Hamas wanted to take advantage of him. Hamas activists who knew about his sensitive situation waited for him outside his school and got him in a taxi. They took him home, told him to change clothes and gave him NIS 50. Then, Then, the activists told him that there are Israeli soldiers in the soap factory, and promised him another NIS 50 if he will go there with the explosive belt. He told us that he did not understand what the belt was for and what it does. Only at the end, when he got just nearby the surrounding wall and the Hamas activists helped him to jump over it did he understand the meaning of his orders and turned himself to us.
At that point, 2.5 years in the service with 6 months to go, I have already seen drama. However, such a case when Hamas is so cynically taking advantage of a young teenager from a struggling family and sends him to commit a suicide attack without even understanding his actions, I did not believe could be possible. It has changed my way of thinking for good.