newsIsrael at War

‘I heard gunfire a lot,’ says US civilian embedded in Khan Yunis for a day

A husband and father, Gabriel Boxer told JNS that he didn’t sleep much a few nights before his stint in the Gaza Strip.

U.S. citizen Gabriel Boxer with the Israel Defense Forces in the Gaza Strip in February 2024. Credit: Courtesy.
U.S. citizen Gabriel Boxer with the Israel Defense Forces in the Gaza Strip in February 2024. Credit: Courtesy.

Gabriel Boxer of Long Island, N.Y., never expected that a joke would result in his spending a day in Khan Yunis this month in the central Gaza Strip.

The 43-year-old had made several trips to Israel to bring in supplies since the Hamas terrorist attacks in southern Israel on Oct. 7. In his capacity working with the American Friends of Judea and Samaria raising funds for surveillance drones, he was talking to Yigal Dilmoni, CEO of the Yesha Council.

“As a joke, I said: ‘You should bring someone in to see how everything is working to raise money for more of them,’” he told JNS.

Boxer, who also blogs online as the “Kosher Guru,” was surprised that he subsequently got permission to embed with the Israel Defense Forces—a highly unusual, if not unprecedented, arrangement for a civilian.

“It took over a month and a half to get final approval,” he told JNS. “I heard there was a lot of back and forth behind the scenes.”

He figures a sticking point was how bad it would look if a U.S. civilian was harmed.

“I was told not to leave the side of the commander because I was not dressed as an Israeli soldier, and if I didn’t follow that, they would not be responsible if anything happened,” he told JNS.

In fact, during the more than five hours he went through Khan Yunis on a Humvee, Boxer told JNS that there were some tense moments, including when Israeli soldiers ahead of him fired at four Hamas terrorists.

“I heard gunfire a lot of the time,” he told JNS.

Gabriel Boxer in Tunnel
Boxer in a Hamas terror tunnel in the Gaza Strip, February 2024. Credit: Courtesy.

‘Wasn’t thinking about it’

A husband and father, Boxer told JNS that he didn’t sleep much a few nights before his trip.

“I told my wife and children what was going to happen, but I didn’t tell my parents until after. I didn’t want them to worry,” he said. “I was definitely concerned.”

Boxer had faith that God would protect him while he was there. “I wasn’t thinking about it so much,” he said. “I was thinking about the bravery of the Israeli soldiers and how it is tragic that things have to be this way because of Hamas.”

An Orthodox Jew who wears a yarmulke, Boxer told JNS that Israeli soldiers showed him photographs from a school in Gaza where painted images show an exploding Israeli Egged bus.

“When we saw video and read about Oct. 7, we wondered how human beings could do such things,” Boxer said. “Part of it is the indoctrination in schools where, from a young age, there are years of radicalization.”

“This has to be addressed if there is any future hope for peace,” he said.

Wardrobe mishap

In Gaza, Boxer wore a helmet and bulletproof vest. But there was a miscommunication on his attire with Dilmoni.

“Before I went, I asked what I should wear, and he said to wear black,” Boxer said. “So, I wore jeans and a black shirt. He said I looked like Hamas. So, he said I should stay close to him.”

Generally, only certain journalists for top news organizations are given permission to embed with the Israeli army. When asked how unusual it was for a person like Boxer to do so, an IDF media representative told JNS that it frequently gives journalists a chance to embed, though did not elaborate on civilians.

Boxer told JNS that he thinks the IDF needed donations of drones to quickly avoid bureaucratic red tape.

His sense after spending time on the ground is that Israeli soldiers are up to the task, although the fighting is intricate and difficult.

“The morale is high,” he said. “The feeling is we are winning. But it isn’t easy.”

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