newsOctober 7

Frantic calls, desperate pleas

Inside Israel’s emergency medical hotline on Oct. 7

Hundreds of desperate calls flooded in from civilians under attack.

Magen David Adom first responders who manned the phones on Oct. 7. Photo by Eric Sultan.
Magen David Adom first responders who manned the phones on Oct. 7. Photo by Eric Sultan.

The calls came in a deluge as Hamas invaded Israel on Oct. 7. Desperate, pleading, screaming, chilling. They poured in from open fields, from lemon groves and potato farms, from locked closets in safe rooms, from shelters, from bullet-riddled vehicles, from injured first-responder teams, from military bases, from bushes, from ditches, from the heart of hell itself, under relentless gunfire, deep within the flames.

They also came from parents frantic with worry, from children orphaned in an instant, from a mother during her abduction, from people fleeing death in its most brutal form until it finally caught up with them.

“Magen David Adom’s call center boasts some of the most advanced technologies in the world, enabling response times of up to three seconds even during high-pressure situations, and the ability to locate victims based on location sharing from the phone they’re calling from,” said MDA Director-General Eli Bin, who is in charge of Israel’s main emergency response medical organization. 

According to Bin, “That day, MDA’s dispatchers didn’t just provide medical guidance over the phone. As you can hear in the calls, they exercised exceptional judgment, thought outside the box, and gave life-saving instructions like keeping quiet and arming oneselves for protection.

“Moreover, the dispatchers maintained their composure and answered calls calmly despite the sense of chaos that had overtaken the country, to provide some sense of security to people on the other end of the line. Their actions saved many lives on that cursed morning. The exceptional human capital and advanced technologies at the call center enabled continuous operation and prevented the system from collapsing even under the extraordinary call volume,” said Bin.

On Oct. 7, 315 emergency medical technicians and paramedics operated in the 101 emergency call centers across the country, answering 26,627 emergency calls, MDA data shows. The average response time was five seconds.

These calls are tangible evidence that serves as an eternal auditory memorial to the atrocities. Here are some of them.

6:29 a.m.

Yael arrives a bit early for her Saturday morning shift at the MDA call center. Usually, Saturdays are calmer than weekdays, especially on a holiday (it was Simchat Torah), but this Saturday the sirens caught her in the parking lot.

She rushes to open a station, expecting calls from Israelis who fell on their way to bomb shelters. But the calls coming into the 101 emergency hotline in those minutes are different and become increasingly dramatic moment by moment.

“MDA hello, this is Yael.” On the worried end of the line is a man reporting that his house was hit by a rocket. “We’re on our way, yes, get into the shelter.”


Hezki the dispatcher answers a call: “MDA hello.”

Caller: “Listen, they shot at us! My friend is dead in the car. We’re both in a ditch. They’re shooting here. Can you locate the phone and get here somehow?”

Hezki: “Yes. Stay with me on the line, bro.”

Caller: “We left a party in the forest, there was an encounter, they shot at our car, my friend is dead.”

Hezki asks the panicked young man to open WhatsApp and click on a link to send his location. The young man reports that in addition to the fatality in the car, his friend beside him in the ditch is wounded and bleeding from the shoulder. The dispatcher instructs him to apply pressure to the bleeding area.

Caller: “We need an ambulance now! Hurry! There are also explosions above us.”

Hezki: “I understand. Tell me, are there casualties only in your car?” The young man reports more vehicles hit in the area and begs for an ambulance to arrive: “Please! I’ve lost one friend; I can’t lose the other one too!”

Hezki asks the young man to place a cloth to stop his friend’s bleeding. “We don’t want to move, we’re in a dangerous place,” the caller replies. “Locate us, bro! Send a helicopter.”

Hezki checks if the friend is conscious and explains to the caller that stopping the bleeding is the only option to save his life right now. “Be real with me, how long approximately [will it take for an ambulance]?”

Hezki replies: “We’re on our way, bro. There are mobile intensive care units on their way to you.”

Destruction at Kibbutz Nir Oz. Photo by Oren Cohen.

In the background, the calls keep coming in. From Kibbutz Kfar Aza, from bases hit in the south, from Route 232 and other communities where rockets struck.

“Tell him to apply pressure so he doesn’t lose blood,” Hezki says to the young man who is meanwhile talking to his friend: “Bro, are you okay?”

And the friend replies in a weak voice, “I’m cold, I’m starting to go into shock.” The caller says to his friend “I’m with you” and shouts to the dispatcher: “Brother, are you coming?!?”


“MDA Ron.”

Young man: “I’m in xxx. There are attackers in my house.”

Ron: “Do you have a place to hide?”

Caller: “I’m in the safe room.”

Ron: “Is it locked?”

Caller: “Yes, yes. Can you send someone urgently?”

Ron: “I’m sending someone.”

Ron asks the caller to give her the exact details about the location. In the background, approaching gunfire is heard, accompanied by shouts.

Caller: “There are attackers here trying to break down the door.”

Ron: “Right now you hear that they opened the door?”

Caller, whispering: “Yes, they opened the door. They’re in our house shouting in Arabic, ‘Open! Open!'”

Ron: “You’re staying hidden.”

Caller: “Of course, my brother is holding the door. Can you send soldiers here?”

Ron: “They’re on their way to you.”

Caller, whispering: “Should I send my location? They’re breaking the door. They’re trying to break the lock.”

In the background, the loud knocking of the attackers on the door can be heard.

Ron: “Do you have a way to lock the shelter?”

Caller: “We don’t have a way.”

Ron: “How many people are in the house?”

Caller: “There are several attackers in the house, it’s not just one.”

Ron: “Do you hear them talking?”

Caller: “They told me ‘Open, open,’ they’re trying to open with a screwdriver, to break the door. Please, send someone!”

Ron: “We’re coming to you. Do you have a place to hide?”

Caller: “We’re in a small room. There’s nowhere to hide. If they come in, we have no way…”

Ron: “Listen, does anyone there have a weapon? Stay with me on the line…”

The caller describes to Ron exactly where his house is located, and continues: “There’s a smell of gunpowder. They’re burning something in the house.”

At that moment, a huge explosion is heard. “Aaahhhh!!! Aaahhhh!!!! They threw a grenade! I’m bleeding!!! I’m bleeding!!!” In the background, gunshots and screams of pain from the caller are heard. “Damn it, I’m bleeding!!! Ambulance!!! My whole back is blood!!! Ahhh!!!”

Ron tries to keep her composure: “Are you in the xxx neighborhood? How many attackers do you have in the house?”

Caller: “I have no idea. About three. They’re still here.”

Ron: “Don’t speak loudly, speak quietly. Did they hit you?”

Caller: “In the back. They exploded … ahhh … three grenades.” The caller groans in pain. His breathing is rapid. “I have wounds in my lower back.”

Ron: “Put a towel there. Where were you hit in the back? Take a shirt or towel.”

Loud knocking is heard in the background. Caller: “They’re trying to break in with metal. Please come! They’re trying to break the window! Please come!”

Silence falls. Ron tries to call to the caller. “I’m with you on the line,” she tells him.

Caller: “I can’t see anything, I’m inside the room. My brother is with me.”

Ron: “Is there an attacker inside the house?”

Caller: “I don’t know. I think they ran away. I’m wounded. They’re still in the house. I need medical help. I need a doctor.”

Ron: “Until the ambulance arrives, you’re with me. About your back, is the back bleeding from an explosion or gunfire?”

Caller: “From an explosion. I took a towel, I’m against the wall. Trying to stop the bleeding.”

Ron: “You’re doing great. Excellent.”

Caller: “It hurts.”

Ron: “Is there another wounded person with you in the house?”

Caller: “My brother was lightly wounded in the leg. Light injury in the leg and arm. They’re trying to break the safe room door. They’ve already entered the house. Please!”

The conversation continues in whispers and fear. At some point, the house catches fire. The brothers jump outside. Both were murdered that morning.

1 p.m.

A 13-year-old girl calls from inside a safe room in Kibbutz Be’eri. Her father is next to her, and she’s not sure if he’s alive. He’s wounded in the leg and bleeding, unconscious. Her mother was murdered, as was one of the siblings with her in the house. The house is dark and she’s wounded too.

Yael and the on-duty dispatcher guide her.

“That day I went through a disconnect,” Yael recounts. “I was in my own zone at the station. I didn’t hear anything around me. I felt that if I didn’t answer this person, there was no one else who would. We didn’t have much we could do. We understood that it was enough to provide security in all the uncertainty. To make them understand that there’s a person on the other side of the line offering hope.

“Our goal was to guide them on how to hide well in the field, send a location, save someone else’s life. This gives a bit of control and the conversation sounds different. From a panicked person who doesn’t know what to do to one who suddenly mobilizes people, improvises and takes a belt or sweater to make a tourniquet.

“That girl, the 13-year-old, spoke with incredible composure,” Yael recounts. “She really touched my heart. In the end, this call was also disconnected, due to low battery. We thought she was the only one left, but a few days later we understood that she and her father, who lost a leg, were alive. This was one story that ended well, because many of the calls ended differently. She was like a ray of light. Something to hang hope on.”

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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