'We've been preparing for this for three years'

Reservists answer the call en masse, ready to take on Hamas.

IDf reservists 298 88 (photo credit: IDF)
IDf reservists 298 88
(photo credit: IDF)
One reservist showed up a week after his wife gave birth to their firstborn son. Another is scheduled to get married next week and his friend took with him an orange flag which he hopes to be able to raise on the ruins of the Gush Katif settlement bloc. On Monday, tens of thousands of reservists were at the Tze'elim training base in the Negev training ahead of possible deployment in the Gaza Strip. "Everybody showed up for duty," said Maj. Ido, deputy commander of a battalion in the Negev Brigade which is designated to be one of the first reservist units to be sent into Gaza if the IDF decides to send reservists into the Strip. "There are concerns, but it's only natural and despite the concerns, everyone answered the emergency orders." On Saturday night, after the ground operation in Gaza began, the government gave the IDF the authority to call up tens of thousands of reservists in the event that Operation Cast Lead is expanded in the Gaza Strip. Some of the reservists are also designated for the northern border amid IDF fears that Hizbullah will launch rockets into Israel. Most of the reservists in the battalion, Maj. Ido said, had served in the Givati Brigade and had experience fighting Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The reservists, a senior IDF officer said, had been provided with the most advanced equipment including ceramic vests, night-vision goggles, light-weight boots and shortened M16 machine guns. The battalion's training included target practice and exercises in a mock Palestinian city that was built several years ago in Tze'elim. The battalion, Maj. Ido said, received daily updates from the different brigades that were operating inside the Gaza Strip on lessons they were learning from the fighting with Hamas. One example of such a lesson had to do with the mortar attack Saturday night that wounded 30 soldiers from the Golani Brigade. "We're sharpening our skills on how to move as large contingents inside the Palestinian territory," the senior officer said. "Every morning and afternoon we receive updates from the battlefield with tips and skills we should put an emphasis on." Chaim Elbaum, a 28-year-old father of three from Jerusalem, said the reservists were prepared for action in Gaza. "We have been preparing for this for three years," Elbaum said. "We have trained for operations in densely-populated areas and we are motivated and ready." Yehuda Broyner, a 38-year-old teacher from a West Bank settlement, had fought in Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 when he had one child. Today, he has four. "In situations like this I don't think about myself," he said. "We are here to protect all of Israel and to bring security to the South."