Israeli soldiers in Khan Yunis, the southern Gaza Strip, Jan. 14, 2024. Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit.
Israeli soldiers in Khan Yunis, the southern Gaza Strip, Jan. 14, 2024. Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit.
featureIsrael at War

War through the eyes of soldiers on the frontline

Israel Defense Forces fighters share which day will forever be etched in their memories.

The 102 days that have passed since Oct. 7 have been filled with heartbreaking moments, and moving ones as well. These are the moments that will be etched in the memories of those on the frontline.

‘We immediately went to the sea and began striking’

Day 1

Lt. David, an officer in the Shayetet 3 missile boat flotilla 

On Oct. 7, “I woke up in my home, in Kibbutz Mefalsim, to the sound of alarms and explosions from the rocket fire from the Gaza Strip towards Israel. As soon as I realized that terrorists had entered the kibbutz, I jumped into action with the civilian security team to thwart the attack and save the kibbutz and its people.

Lt. David. Credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

“After a day of hard fighting, I arrived at my base in Haifa and immediately went to the sea. I joined my fighters, who had already sailed off to the Gaza shore and began intense attacks from the sea towards the targets of the Hamas terrorist organization. I have been at sea ever since.

“From that day on, my friends and I have been defending our home, each in his own section. We do not forget what we are fighting for. It is a privilege to serve in the IDF in a war, and we will continue to do whatever it takes until we win.”

‘Fighting for our fallen friends’

Day 7

Sgt. (res.) Carmel, an observation soldier

“I arrived in the reserves as an observation soldier already in the first days of the fighting. On the Saturday of October 7, which was a holiday and Sabbath, I hiked the Israel National Trail and just arrived at Moshavat Kinneret [on the shores of the Sea of Galilee]. That morning, a friend of mine from Kibbutz Nahal Oz in the Gaza periphery called me and told me that Hamas had invaded.

Sgt. (res.) Carmel. Credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

“For three days we tried to contact the war room. During those hours, there were updates from the other operations rooms in the Gaza periphery, but not from Nahal Oz. From that moment I was just waiting for them to call me up. Now I am here, for my friends who fell on October 7, to continue what they didn’t have time to finish. It’s important for me to preserve the traditions of Nahal Oz, and now more than ever I understand how important my work is.”

‘Our finding led to the identification of a missing person’

Day 13

Maj. (res.) Yaniv, Home Front Command southern district 

“Since the beginning of the war, I have been going out with the teams that work to identify the victims of the attack and bring them to burial. One day, I went out with one of my teams to scan the [Supernova music festival] party grounds in Re’im. While searching for and scanning the complex, we came across a finding next to an ambulance that was overturned and completely burned. We immediately transferred it for further identification. After that, it became clear to me that thanks to the finding, a missing person was identified.

Maj. (res.) Yaniv. Credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

“While we were scanning the ambulance, we noticed an iron rod protruding from the belly of the vehicle. I tried to pull it, and suddenly I realized that it was the head of an RPG that had not exploded. I told the people at the scene to stay away until a bomb disposal team arrived. Thankfully, the incident passed peacefully.

“That day will forever be etched in my memory, a day when we were able to bring some comfort to a family that lost its son, and also prevent an event with many casualties thanks to the vigilance of my people.”

‘You feel completely invincible’

Day 22

Staff Sgt. Uriel, 7th Armored Brigade

“My first entry into the Gaza Strip was after several weeks of intensive training in tanks, so my team and I entered with confidence. Any fear there is—as soon as you hear the amount of fire and see the power of the tank, and in general, in a battalion like ours, you understand that nothing can stop us.

Staff Sgt. Uriel. Credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

“With the entire air force around you, you feel completely invincible. Above all, there is the feeling that you are engaged in a big and important mission: whether it is related to the release of the hostages or the destruction of Hamas. This makes you do the job to the best of your ability and act at the peak of your strength, with a sense of mission and major desire to complete the task.”

‘Walking the halls of Shifa for the first time’

Day 46 

Command Sgt. Maj. (res.) Matan, Combat Engineering Corps’ 8173rd Battalion

“On the 46th day of the war, we first received the order to destroy shafts and tunnels found in Shifa Hospital [in Gaza City]. An operation we hoped would come. On the night of the entry, the tension and vigilance were at peak. We knew that Hamas was looking for an achievement, and that our ability to avoid casualties in such a dense area was limited. But the sense of mission and the righteousness of our way was strong within us. At every step you are amazed by the things you see, the depth of the tunnels, the means of warfare and the fact that everything is inside the civilian area. The mind boggles.

Command Sgt. Maj. (res.) Matan. Credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

“We were privileged to be a part of a historic day for the Israel Defense Forces and the Jewish people, to destroy the Shifa tunnels [in Gaza City] and to be in a place where no IDF soldier had set foot for at least two decades. I think we helped to clarify why the ground incursion was necessary—to deal with the terrorist threat called Hamas.

“It is important for me to mention and remember my fellow soldiers who were killed and wounded in the fighting in Gaza. We will remember you forever. You are the real heroes.”

‘The look in the eyes that makes it all worth it’

Day 49

Col. Sharon, Technological and Logistics Directorate

“As part of my role in the Technological and Logistics Directorate, from the outbreak of the war, we were involved in the mobilization of the troops, their transportation to the battlefield, maneuver support, and constant concern for their readiness. When I was assigned the task of participating in the hostage return operation, and in command of the entire response of the directorate, I was happy that this privilege fell to me. We did everything to provide the most appropriate and accurate response.

Col. Sharon. Credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

“Knowing that you did everything possible, and with proper humility, for this moment when you look into the eyes of a child, a girl, a mother or a grandmother who could have been yours taken hostage—makes everything worth it. And the feeling of seeing a look of ‘Here, we are home, after all the horrors’ was moving and indescribable. It’s a feeling of meaning and participation in a historical moment.”

‘The IDF is strong—and the IDF will win’

Day 56 

Lt. Assaf, 7th Armored Brigade’s 82nd Battalion

“All the forces entered Gaza together—air, ground, navy. We immediately experienced a number of incidents during which the fighters acted in a professional and excellent manner and strived to fight the enemy. We entered with two objectives: destroying Hamas and returning the hostages.

Lt. Assaf. Credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

“The bereaved families are always in our minds, and we will fight for those warriors and soldiers who lost their lives. The IDF is strong—and the IDF will win.”

‘We managed to stabilize the wounded soldier and saved his life’

Day 70 

Staff Sgt. Orit, paramedic

“‘Wounded, badly wounded, come quick!’ As soon as I heard the screams, I ran to the scene. I took a deep breath and began to administer first aid. Together with the medical team, we gave the wounded the best treatment.

Staff Sgt. Orit. Credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

“What is required of us is to act quickly, resourcefully and professionally. He was seriously injured but we managed to stabilize him. I am in contact with his family to this day. Whenever I am out of Gaza, I visit him in the hospital.

“It is a huge privilege for me to take part in this very important task—to save lives. We continue with all our strength, with great faith and high morale!”

‘Meeting my son who was named after a fallen soldier for the first time’

Day 86

Capt. Uri, the Nahal Brigade’s 932nd Battalion

“During intense fighting in Tuffah [in Gaza City] in the north of the Gaza Strip, I happened to go out [of the Strip] for a 24-hour refresher, during which I met my second son, Elroy, who had just been born, for the first time. After a few hours of an exciting meeting, I returned to fight with my company.

Capt. Uri and his son Elroy. Credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

“My wife was supposed to give birth later, and by chance, we went out to freshen up—and I was able to see her. We named our son Elroy, after the late Maj. Roi Chapel, a Nahal commander who fell on Oct. 7.”

‘Going strong’

Day 100

Col. Elad Tzuri, commander of the 7th Armored Brigade

“For 100 days, the brigade has been fighting the terrorist organization Hamas. Fifty years after the Yom Kippur War, the time has come for us to fight. On October 7, our tanks stopped hundreds of Nukhba terrorists [Hamas commandos], and our fighters defended the surrounding settlements with their bodies.

Col. Elad Tzuri. Credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

“We were among the first to enter the north of the Gaza Strip, and now we are fighting in the south, in the heart of Khan Yunis. We continue with all our strength. Even after 100 days, we will not stop fighting until the moment our mission is completed. We have suffered heavy losses, but the spirit of the commanders and fighters is high, with the understanding that on our shoulders lies the task of ensuring our children a safe and peaceful country to grow up in.”

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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