idf troops enter gaza 248 88 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
The corridors of Beersheba's Soroka Hospital were bustling on Sunday as dozens of soldiers wounded in the Gaza fighting began arriving for treatment and their families, friends and brothers-in-arms poured in to offer support.
Two of the most seriously wounded - an infantryman and an officer - were being treated in the same ward on an upper floor of the sprawling complex.
While the officer was reportedly unconscious - heavily medicated and between surgeries - the infantryman, head and body swathed in bandages and gauze, told The Jerusalem Post from his hospital bed that he had been in the middle of a bad round of fighting just after his unit crossed the border into the strip.
"It wasn't fun," he said before turning away. "I don't want to talk about it right now."
The officer's family paced around a waiting area as his brother answered phone call after phone call, repeating the same information.
"Yes, he was badly wounded," the brother would say. "In the head. We don't know. We're praying."
Other soldiers and civilians milled around, coming and going as their phones rang incessantly.
"I've been doing this all day," said a female soldier from a paratrooper battalion, her eyes weary from lack of sleep. "My job is to check on the wounded and keep track of their status. I've been here since five o'clock this morning."
Another group of soldiers - members of a platoon of Golani infantry that had been hit nearly dead-on by a mortar round - was scattered throughout the hospital, undergoing various types of treatment, including surgery.
Standing near the entrance to the thoracic surgical wing, a young man who identified himself as Haim said he had been there to greet his brother Nathan, a member of the platoon, when he arrived in a medevac helicopter a few hours before.
"I spoke to him," Haim said. "He was talking, slowly, but he was talking. He said they had just entered into Gaza, through a fence, and they crouched down, I guess to take a minute and get their bearings. The next thing they knew, a 120 mm. mortar round landed within meters and they were all wounded by shrapnel."
"We saw the shrapnel they took out of his chest," said Nathan's sister, who stood nearby and showed an imaginary metal fragment with her fingers. "They said it was over 2 cm. long."
"They also said it was 1 mm. away from hitting his windpipe," Haim added. "One millimeter over and, well...the doctor said it was a miracle."
But Nathan's wasn't the only miracle at Soroka on Sunday. All but one of the soldiers who had been hit by the mortar round were being treated for various shrapnel wounds listed as "light" and were expected to make full recoveries.
In a smoking area outside the hospital, a Golani private, visibly shaken, said he was a member of the platoon whose men were hit by the mortar shell and that in the aftermath, his mother had revoked her permission for him to go into combat. He was an only son and army protocol required a parent's signature. His mother, he explained, had had a change of heart.
"But I'm dying to go back in there," the private said, sucking down the cigarette he had just lit with shaky hands. "I'm not going to tell you that it wasn't frightening. We went in, it was all quiet, and then boom, the mortar hit and Hamas fighters started coming out. We repelled them, but it was a real balagan."