‘I also cried’

During Operation Protective Edge, soldiers of the 7th Armored Brigade exposed Hamas' attack tunnels; 'I could not help but think how a place that should be innocent was turned into a killing factory'

An IDF soldier traverses a tunnel used by Hamas gunmen for cross-border attacks (photo credit: REUTERS)
An IDF soldier traverses a tunnel used by Hamas gunmen for cross-border attacks
(photo credit: REUTERS)
“On Friday night I told the soldiers that we were going to have a relatively quiet Shabbat, and we could use the time to get to know each other,” said Lt. Shaul, from the brigade’s reconnaissance unit.
“We sat around, drank coffee, and just talked. The atmosphere was great.
“Suddenly the pastoral image changed into one of horror: Minutes after Cpl. Adar began patrolling around the area where his friends were sitting, a boom was heard, followed by a cloud of dust that spiraled upward. A brushfire started spreading in the field surrounding the unit, and the quiet was replaced by cries for help by a wounded soldier.
“I remember the loud, shrieking, piercing noise. Louder than I had ever heard. Then an explosion,” said Adar. “I fell on the ground. The pain was intense. I realized I had been hit in the leg.”
Corporals Roei and Ophir, the paramedics, were the first to arrive at the scene. “I worked like a robot,” said Ophir. “In moments like this you try not think too much, you just do the best you can to save your friend and make sure he’s going to be okay. He had a large piece of shrapnel in his leg and there was a lot of blood. Very quickly another five medical professionals arrived, and everyone helped to treat him.
It was important for me to keep talking to him all the time, just to make sure he was alright. “ “I did not understand what was happening to me and if my leg had been amputated,” said Adar.
“I did not know the paramedics that were treating me, I did not know if I could trust them. Ophir was the one that really calmed me down. When I heard his voice I realized that everything would be okay.”
The field evaluation revealed that, in addition to shrapnel in his thigh, there was more shrapnel in his hand and shoulder. “In retrospect, I realized that the ceramic vest prevented a lot more fragments from reaching me. It really saved my life,” said Adar.
Less than five minutes after he was wounded, he was on the way to Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer.
During the organized commotion, Shaul, who was managing the operation, realized the extent to which his soldiers are skilled and experts in their positions. “I did not know what I had in my hands,” he admits.
“I’ve now seen how the guys’ performance was outstanding. Everyone knew exactly what his job was.”
The most difficult moment for Shaul was calling Lisa, Adar’s mother.
“With the quick evacuation there was no time to tell her about the injury and to connect between her and Adar,” he said. “I had to take it on myself, to be brave and call her, and I can tell you, it was one of the most difficult moments I had in this operation, and I had many difficult moments and lost a lot of friends.”
“Is everything alright there?” was Lisa’s first question. “I tried to reassure her, but I myself was under a crazy amount of pressure,” recalls Shaul. “I told her that her son was wounded and was fully conscious on the way to the hospital.”
“Only when my mother saw me, she calmed down and stopped crying,” said Adar, who had lost his father only two and half years before. “I was afraid of her reaction to what had happened , and I know the whole time that the most important thing for her was to see that I was okay. The truth is, I think that I was crying the whole time as well.”
As the operation was coming to an end, Shaul was quick to gather all the members of the unit and take everyone to visit Adar at the Hospital, before they left for home to their families. “It was a very emotional moment,” said Shaul. “ We entered his room, a team of fighters, still with our work uniforms on and still smelly, just to give him a big hug.”
Soldiers of the 7th Brigade uncovered a number of Hamas attack tunnels.
“One day found a huge tunnel, very impressive looking; from the top of it you do not see either its beginning or its end,” said Adar.
“You realize that whenever you find a tunnel like this, you prevent attacks and save lives.
“At that moment there is some concern. You understand that terrorists can appear from an underground tunnel that is unseen and hidden, and not only do you need to scan the streets to look for them, but also to take into account what is happening underground. They do not fight face to face, but they tail you. They are trained well at entering and leaving tunnels, but not at fighting like soldiers. In battle they pop their heads out of a tunnel, shooting and ducking repetitively or shooting and escaping back through the tunnel.
“ One of the most shocking finds found by the team was a tunnel discovered in a mosque. “We found a large amount of weapons and managed to remove the pulley through which they shifted the materials,” said Shaul. “I could not help but think how a place that should be innocent was turned into a killing factory.”
During the constant fighting and despite the fact that friends were wounded, the soldiers did not forget their goal. “You know you’re the defensive line and you cannot let them pass you” said Cpl. Roei, “You always have to be prepared to protect the people of Israel in general and in particular the residents of the Gaza perimeter. It makes me feel proud, to be a part of something big. When you’re there you realize how important and serious the situation is.”
Cpl. Ophir added: “This is real. This is what we prepared for. We joined the army to protect Israel and its residents. This feeling makes us stronger and allows us to understand where we belong.”
Translated by Maya Pelleg