On Monday, Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz will host dozens of army
commanders and soldiers at a succa at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, as part of
an annual event held to salute the bravery of frontline fighters.
the guests will be Capt. Dean Levi, 24, who has seen more than his fair share of
harrowing, deadly battles with Gazan terrorists while defending the southern
Today, Levi is an advanced-training battalion commander in the
460th Armored Brigade, where he passes on his wealth of experience to future
generations of tank crews.
He risked his life repeatedly by leading his
men on counter-terrorism missions, engaging terrorists and losing comrades along
As a company commander in the 77th Armored Battalion, Levi spent
14 months on the Gaza border in 2010- 2011, a time when terrorists repeatedly
tried to plant explosives along the border and infiltrate Israel to attack
“We had two quiet months that year,” Levi told The
That was before March 2010 brought a host of
“Lots of explosives were planted in the north and
south of the Gaza sector along the fence,” he recalled. There were frequent
alerts of terrorist infiltrations.
Tanks patrolled the area, responding
to the alerts.
Then, one evening, infantrymen from the Golani Brigade
arrived to replace Levi’s tanks along the border, when an infiltration alert
went out on the army’s communications network.
“The infantry were getting
ready with their equipment.
We identified three infiltrators, and the
last of our tanks had just been loaded onto a trailer which set off,” Levi
recounted. On foot, Levi led a team of Armored Corps and Golani soldiers toward
a wheat field, in the direction the suspicious figures, after a visual
“I understood if they entered the forest we’d lose them.
They were heading for [Kibbutz] Kissufim,” he said. Suddenly, the infantry squad
commander called his soldiers back, as they were unequipped. Levi was left with
two tank crew members.
A tragic error occurred, when an army patrol
arrived, and misidentified Levi and his soldiers as the terrorists. They fired
more than 60 bullets at them. “We shouted, ‘IDF IDF!’ The infiltrators were on
their knees and had surrendered, no longer posing a threat,” he said.
the time the patrol realized its mistake, St.-Sgt.
Gabriel Chefitz, from
Zichron Ya’acov, was hit in chest by friendly fire.
“The bullet passed
through both lungs. He lay on his side. I turned him around. My whole hand was
covered in blood,” Levi recalled with a deep sigh.
Army medics were
unable to save him, and he died on the scene.
“We were stunned. We stayed
another night in the area, then we went to the funeral. We met with battalion
and brigade commanders to discuss the incident,” said Levi. A few days later, he
was back on active security missions at another location along the
Just as Levi unloaded the last of his tanks from the trailer, he
spotted a vehicle on the Gazan side of the border speeding toward the fence. The
army communications network reported armed terrorists planting
“I scrambled everyone to their tanks. We had minimal
equipment. I reported to the Golani Brigade’s deputy battalion commander, Maj.
Eliraz Peretz, on the radio, saying we were ready. He instructed me to approach
the terrorists’ location,” Levi said.
Upon hearing the tanks, the
terrorists began retreating.
Levi fired a shell from his tank, and a
second tank fired two more, killing one terrorist. A second hid in ditch with
his weapon, waiting for the soldiers.
Peretz decided to lead a platoon
across the border to confirm that the second terrorist has been killed. But the
terrorist opened fire at the advancing soldiers, killing Peretz and a second
Golani soldier, and wounding two others.
“The bullet tore through
Peretz’s chest, from armpit to armpit,” Levi said, with another deep sigh,
struggling with the memory.
A company commander stormed the position with
his troops, killing the gunman.
Levi directed his tanks to the scene, to
provide cover for the infantry who evacuated their casualties and
The firefight was far from over; 12 terrorists remained holed
up in apartment buildings in Gaza, near the fence.
They fired mortars and
sniper rifles at the soldiers.
Levi’s tanks killed them all.
evening, a D9 armored bulldozer was sent in to demolish the
The forces left the area shortly after 5 a.m.
over these incidents in my mind, again and again, looking for lessons to learn,”
Levi said. He spoke of the trauma of losing fellow soldiers, but added that the
fact that his company was able to destroy a terrorist cell boosted morale. “This
kept us going,” he said.
Levi passes on his battle experience “at every
opportunity” during training, he said.
“Chefitz was Zionist who was
committed to the missions,” he said.
“I feel committed to pass these
things on to the next generation of soldiers.”