AN ISRAELI soldier stands near a mobile artillery unit as it fires a shell into southern Lebanon on July 13, 2006, a day after IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were abducted by Hezbollah.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Nearly a decade ago, on July 27, 2006, in the midst of the Second Lebanon War, the IDF’s Golani Brigade became entangled in an hours-long, deadly firefight with Hezbollah cells in the southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil.
Officers and soldiers from Golani’s 51 Battalion spent hours returning fire on Hezbollah terrorists in an effort to rescue the wounded, extract the dead from the battlefield and get them to an area from which Black Hawk helicopters could airlift them to the hospital.
On Sunday, for the first time, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit released army radio communications recordings
from that battle. It also launched a website to mark 10 years since the start of the conflict.
Battalion 51 killed dozens of Hezbollah terrorists during these clashes and lost eight of its members in battle, including Maj. Roee Klein, the deputy battalion commander who, according to a soldier’s witness testimony, pounced on a Hezbollah grenade to save his troops. The subsequent blast killed him.
It took hours to coordinate the rescue of the downed soldiers, and the recordings released by the IDF begin in the middle of this effort.
Despite the circumstances, the voices in the recording are composed.
“I want to establish the rendezvous point for the battalion commander and wounded and know your route to the [helicopter landing area] so we can accompany it, over,” said Maj. Eyal Asraf, the Golani Brigade’s operations officer.
He asked for information about how many injured the helicopter rescue pilots should expect.
The commander of Battalion 51 at that time, Brig.-Gen. Yaniv Ashur, radioed back that there were 10 wounded soldiers, but that any additional information would come later, since he was under fire.
“Four injured soldiers are heading out on stretchers in your direction,” Ashur said after returning fire. He also provided information on the route taken by the soldiers who were carrying their friends on stretchers.
Ashur had led half of the battalion to northeast Bint Jbeil, while the deputy commander, Klein, took the other half to the northwest part of the town where they encountered dozens of terrorists behind a wall who opened fire and hurled grenades at them.
Ashur then led his soldiers to Klein’s position, to facilitate a rescue. Meanwhile, Klein and his men came under fire again and again before Klein himself was killed by a grenade blast and several of his soldiers lay on the ground wounded or dead. Despite the casualties they incurred, Klein’s force killed 10 terrorists in the encounter.
It took several more hours before the Black Hawk helicopters could land and carry out their mission to extract the group.
The IDF said a post-war inquiry into these events concluded that the soldiers had arrived, by chance, at a spot used by Hezbollah terrorists to fire Katyusha rockets into Israel.
The homes in that part of the town were filled with Hezbollah men who were armed to the teeth and fighting on their home turf.
“The force found itself at a significant disadvantage, mainly because it did was not suitably familiar with the built-up terrain on which it fought, and it did not have the [engineering] breaching equipment,” the IDF said on its website.
“This battle turned into a symbol of bravery for Golani Brigade combat soldiers. The commanders continued to fight Hezbollah operatives for hours under an inferno of fire.
They returned, time after time, to an olive grove to place the dead and injured soldiers on their backs, under fire,” the IDF stated.