Testimony Num : 138

Life was Impossible, and I was there

Regiment 202, Paratroopers

In 2005, as part of Israel’s unilateral disengagement process, all Israeli troops left the
Gaza Strip and all towns were turned over to the Palestinians. After the Disengagement,
during my IDF service, shootings from Gaza gradually started, with rockets, mortars
and missiles aimed at Israel, as well as attacks on the fence, explosive charges, etc.
During the last months prior to our entrance to Gaza I was serving along the border
fence guarding the nearby towns. I served in Nahal Oz and Kfar Aza and witnessed the
escalation during the time period that living in the border towns was almost impossible.
There were dozens of rockets every day, hundreds a week. It was impossible to resume
daily life along the fence and along the border, especially for the farmers whose land
was located near the border. There was a lot of movement along the fence and many
attempts to infiltrate. Daily life for the Israelis who lived in the Gaza vicinity became
almost unbearable. Looking back, I can better understand the severity of the situation,
but when you are there as a soldier, you don’t see the whole picture.
As a result, the IDF entered Gaza and attacked Hamas militants. The aim was to
prevent escalation in the Strip and to stop the attacks and the missiles fired into Israel,
including, in the future, to Tel Aviv. At this stage, we’re talking about combat, about
entering with fire, with high risk for the soldiers. We are talking about airplanes, tanks,
movement of armed brigades into a complex area with a civilian population who were
told to evacuate and were notified that the army was coming.
They were notified by flyers and public announcements and it was very clear. From the
moment the fighting broke out, until we entered, two weeks had passed. It is important
to emphasize that the IDF entrance was very complex.
It took place while under fire, missile attacks and shooting towards our tanks. When
a tank enters, it enters. It does not look for a convenient way to enter, it destroys all in
its way.

Most Gazan civilians evacuated as we entered. Those who stayed behind were those
who wanted to confront us.
This was a very complex process, we entered with fire to protect our soldiers,
because if you don’t, they attack you. On the other hand, when you enter with fire,
you automatically cause destruction. Things get damaged and you need to do it in an
organized manner, not excessively. On the other hand, you need to make sure not to
put IDF soldiers at risk. You can’t enter quietly or secretly, because you are part of a
brigade. You stand out and the Hamas’ aim was, of course, to harm us. You can also be
kidnapped. If you don’t enter with fire, they can wait for you and if you enter a house
fully exposed, without fire, you expose yourself to great danger from the enemy, who
is just waiting to catch you.
As a soldier, I had to enter homes under the charge of the brigade commander. I watched
his back, entered with him and established the post where he managed the entire forces.
After entering the house, even if you have entered it in the past, there is a process of
clearing the house inside and outside. The house becomes a guarded post, with soldiers
guarding it ‘round the clock, including the brigade commander.
In this situation, the local population’s livelihood suffers. Some will return to destroyed
homes which the IDF has strategically targeted for destruction – not because we
wanted to harm the civilian population, but because it was necessary to accomplish the
operational goals.
We tried to minimize the number of forces as much as possible and to keep the forces
together, I tried to keep my soldiers close to me. I would do everything in my power to
protect them. I would demolish parts of the house to build posts, if I had to. We would
cut down trees outside to prevent the enemy from hiding behind them, or even destroy
a location overlooking our post, if it exposed my soldiers to risk.
I would not do this if it wasn’t absolutely necessary. However, it was war and that is
the difference between routine and emergency. Our soldiers’ safety, specifically to
protect them from being kidnapped, was top priority.

In the framework of my position as a Brigade Commander’s Assistant, we had to direct
the air forces and armored corps. The challenge was locating
the source of the missiles, in order to stop them. Each missile that was fired could
injure the Israeli civilian population. They were aimed at Israeli towns and our goal
was to stop the launchings.
I saw people launching missiles from the yard of a house, from a roof, from a garden,
from a window. I saw the launchings from a distance of not a meter, but a kilometer,
from a high observation point and I needed to decide within 5-10 seconds whether to
shoot at the target or not.
Looking back, I recognize the moral complexities within which we needed to act. I
had a clear role to carry out and my goal was to act in the best way, with minimum
harm to civilian population. This was true for every action I carried out.