A video clip making the rounds in Hebrew media features Ofakim Mayor Yitzhak Danino revealing disturbing details of a conversation he had with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant as the Oct. 7 attack unfolded, in which he pleaded for army helicopters to save the small southern city, which Gallant promised but were never sent.
Located 18 miles east of the Gaza Strip, Ofakim suffered more than 50 dead during the Hamas attack. The death toll would have been still worse but for the heroic actions of local residents, most armed only with handguns.
Danino describes in the undated speech how he realized what was happening by 7 a.m. and called Gallant, saying, “There are bands of terrorists going from house to house and murdering my residents and if a helicopter doesn’t arrive within a half hour they’ll slaughter the entire city.”
The mayor said there was silence on the other end for 20 to 30 seconds, which “seemed like an eternity,” before Gallant spoke. He said, “I’ll take care of it.”
“In those moments, I felt like I’d done something meaningful to save my residents,” Danino said, describing how even in that difficult situation he felt “elated” knowing help was on its way.
“I wait half an hour. I call him again. And I say to him, “Mr. Minister, I don’t hear helicopters. I don’t hear rescue forces. And he says to me, ‘I’ll take care of it,'” Danino related.
“The first soldier to arrive at Ofakim was at 2 in the afternoon,” he said.
Danino had spoken about the conversation before, relating the story to Radio Darom on Oct. 26.
Danino told the Israeli station that he first called then-Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, who promised to reach out to the National Security Council, but Danino realized that wasn’t the answer, and then it hit him he should call Gallant.
The only help for Ofakim came from its residents, who rushed out of their homes to defend the city “spontaneously” and on their own initiative against the terrorists. They “saved hundreds of residents” that day, the mayor said.